Trump jumps into immigration negotiation after the government shutdown ends.
After Senate Democrats struck a deal (kind of) with Republican leadership on Monday morning to consider immigration legislation in the coming weeks, the Senate voted overwhelmingly – 81 to 18 – to fund the government through February 8th. The House quickly took up and passed the legislation the same day, and President Trump signed it into law on Monday night, officially ending the government shutdown – for now.
Liberal activists and 2020 presidential contenders slammed the deal as a loss for Democrats, as did much of the press. James Hohmann of the Washington Post’s Daily 202 compiles the list here (about a third of the way down), but below are a handful of examples:
- POLITICO: “Schumer’s shutdown performance sparks unrest in his ranks.”
- Time: “The Shutdown Ended Because Democrats Lost Their Spine.”
- The Atlantic: “Democrats Relent.”
- MSNBC: “Schumer’s rare double-buckle on the shutdown infuriates Democrats on the left.”
- Slate: “The Democrats Are Losers.”
Why did the Democrats give in so quickly, and on something far short of a deal on DACA? Two reasons, according to Hohmann: (1) Democrats are ideologically inclined to “believe that government is a force for good…[and it’s] their solemn duty to deliver services,” and (2) moderate Democrats up for reelection this year in states that Trump won were sensing the tides of public opinion turn against them, as Republicans starting winning the messaging war, arguing Democrats were choosing undocumented immigrants over American citizens.
On Tuesday, both sides were back to posturing: President Trump tweeted early in the morning that “nobody knows” if a deal will be reached on DACA, again ratcheting up the reality-TV-style suspense, and Chuck Schumer (D-NY), the Senate Minority Leader, told reporters he was pulling the offer of $25 billion for the wall, because of “Trump’s failure to follow through on the outlines of an agreement the two men discussed on Friday.”
Such moves underscore how far away political leaders still are from any sort of deal, which may be why, on Wednesday, Trump told reporters he was open to extending the March 5th deadline he’d originally set for scrapping DACA, and floated the idea of implementing a path to citizenship for current ‘dreamers,’ as the DACA recipients are known: “We’re going to morph it,” he said. “It’s gonna happen at some point in the future, over a period of 10-12 years. I think it’s a nice thing to have the incentive of after a period of years being able to become a citizen.” All he wants in return is…$25 billion for a border wall.
It’s possible Trump is regretting passing on Schumer’s offer before the shutdown – it appears the deal the White House is shopping is similar to the one Schumer held out, with a few extra anti-immigration moves tossed in there to please the base. It’s also possible that, now that Schumer has showed his hand, Trump feels comfortable outlining a deal.
On Thursday, the White House went ahead and proposed a compromise along these lines: a path to citizenship for an estimated 1.8 million young undocumented immigrants (these include more than just DACA recipients) in exchange for the $25 billion border wall funding and, more significantly, other restrictive immigration moves, including “terminating the ability of U.S. citizens to petition for permanent legal residency ‘green cards’ for parents and siblings,” as the Washington Post reports.
The proposal, billed as a bipartisan solution, garnered praise from immigration hardliners like Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), but received immediate pushback from Democrats: a spokesman for Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) called it an “anti-immigrant wish list,” and Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez (D-IL) said on Twitter that it “doesn’t pass the laugh test.” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), who’d been working on the bipartisan legislation that set off Trump’s “shithole” remark, said dreamers “should not be held hostage” to the administration’s anti-immigration agenda.
As the legislative process runs its course, litigation is ramping up on both sides: Officials from the Department of Justice “sent letters to roughly two dozen jurisdictions threatening to issue subpoenas if they don’t willingly relinquish documents showing they aren’t withholding information about the citizenship or immigration status of people in custody,” even as some of those cities, like Chicago, Philadelphia, and Seattle, have brought lawsuits against the federal government “over whether the administration has overstepped its authority by seeking to withhold grant money.”
In response to the DOJ move, many mayors skipped a planned meeting with Trump about infrastructure.
Organizations, too, are taking to the courts to fight back against the White House’s immigration policy: on Wednesday, the NAACP filed a lawsuit seeking a court injunction against the administration’s decision to revoke Temporary Protection Status (TPS) for the roughly 46,000 Haitians who have been living in the US since a 2010 earthquake in the country destroyed hundreds of buildings and killed more than 100,000 people. The suit cites President Trump’s previous derogatory comments about Haitians as evidence of his “racialized goals concerning immigration.”
This week in Russia
Elbowing out the other significant news this week about the Russia investigation is a report published in the New York Times Thursday alleging that President Trump ordered Special Counsel Robert Mueller fired back in June “after seeing news reports that the special counsel was investigating him for potential obstruction of justice.” Trump eventually backed away from the move after White House Counsel Donald McGahn threatened to resign.
In response to the report, which is eerily reminiscent to former President Richard Nixon’s firing of special prosecutor Archibald Cox in 1973 (nicknamed the “Saturday Night Massacre,” because both the attorney general and deputy attorney general resigned in response), lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are insisting on legislation to insulate the Special Counsel investigation from the White House.
Here’s what else happened this week:
- Jeff Sessions spoke to Mueller last week, which makes him the first Cabinet member to do so.
- The FBI is investigating “whether Russian money went to NRA to help Trump.”
- President Trump asked then-acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe who he voted for, in an Oval Office meeting that took place just after Trump had fired James Comey.
- The Senate Judiciary Committee will soon make the transcript of its interview with Donald Trump Jr. publicly available.
- The committee’s Republican chair, Chuck Grassley, admitted it was unlikely that Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, would sit down for an interview. Grassley claimed Kushner was spooked by the release of Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson’s transcript.
- The FBI lost, and then the Department of Justice recovered, thousands of text messages, including those between senior FBI lawyer Lisa Page and senior counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok, which expressed anti-Trump sentiments.
- Page and Strzok were both early members of Special Counsel Mueller’s team, although Page eventually left and Strzok was removed when the texts were discovered.
- The viral hashtag #releasethememo, which refers to a document, written by Republican Rep. Devin Nunes and others, that “details what it alleges are FBI surveillance abuses during the 2016 election,” was boosted in part by “a swarm of Twitter accounts set up in the past week,” according to a CNN analysis.
- Despite theories that Russians are again sowing discord in American politics via social media, a Twitter internal analysis has found it’s been primarily Americans sharing the hashtag.
- Just before leaving for Davos, President Trump told reporters he would “love” to speak to Special Counsel Mueller.
On Monday, President Trump slapped tariffs on imported solar panels and washing machines.
- NPR reports: “The move against solar components splits the solar panel industry with manufacturers favoring the tariffs as a necessary step to save domestic subsidiary companies, while installers opposed them as job-killers.”
Jerome Powell, Trump’s pick to head the Federal Reserve, was sworn in on Tuesday. Powell, considered a centrist, won confirmation on a 84-13 vote, and is widely expected to continue former Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s policies.
Alex Azar, a former pharmaceutical executive and “twice-confirmed veteran of George W. Bush’s HHS,” was confirmed as HHS Secretary on Wednesday.
- The vote was 55-43, with six Democrats – primarily from red states – voting in favor.
- Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND): “I think he’s incredibly competent. I don’t share a lot of his philosophy, but I think he understands – as someone who has been at the administration – the importance of the rule of law and compliance.”
Larry Nassar, a former Michigan-based sports doctor, as well as the doctor for Team USA’s women’s gymnastics squad, was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison for sexual abuse of children.
- More than 150 victims testified against Nassar, describing a disturbing pattern of abuse that lasted decades.
- Michigan State’s president, Lou Anna Simon, resigned after the sentencing, following accusations that the university mishandled complaints about Nassar. Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis announced his retirement days later.
- 16 directors of USA Gymnastics resigned on Friday, after the US Olympic Committee (USOC) “threatened to strip the group of its power to run its sport.” Five directors had already resigned.
- In Time, attorney Anne E. Gowen explains why Judge Rosemarie Aquilina’s sentencing may have undermined justice.
On Tuesday morning, a 15-year-old boy armed with a handgun opened fire at Marshall County High School, killing two and wounding 18 others.
- The two students who were killed, Bailey Holt and Preston Cope, were both 15 years old.
- The shooting came just a day after another school shooting in Italy, Texas wounded one 15-year-old female student.
- Lackluster coverage in the national press has many asking whether we’ve become desensitized to events that once shocked and horrified us.
- Matt Bevin, Kentucky’s Republican governor: “We have become desensitized to death, we have become desensitized to killing, we have become desensitized to empathy for our fellow man and it’s coming at an extraordinary price and we have got to look at the root causes of this.” Bevin has, as the Associated Press reports, “made it clear that he won’t sign laws that restrict guns.”
The Washington Post reports that, for the first time ever, a tech company has outspent all others on lobbying efforts: in 2017, Google spent $18 billion, breaking its own record. Other tech companies ramped up their lobbying efforts, too:
- Facebook spent more than $11 million, an increase of 32 percent;
- Apple spent more than $7 million, an increase of 51 percent;
- Amazon spent just under $13 million, an increase of 16 percent.
The spending efforts highlight the growing influence of giant tech companies on federal policy, and come amid questions about the role of social media in the democratic process.
At the World Economic Forum, a summit for global elites in Davos, Switzerland, President Trump reiterated his “America First” policy, but also made a pitch to businesses and other countries to invest in the US, declaring the US “open for business,” and asserting that “America First does not mean America alone.”