Little Progress Made As Partial Government Shutdown Looms

WASHINGTON — The fight over President Donald Trump’s $5 billion wall funds has deepened, threatening a partial government shutdown in a standoff that has become increasingly common in Washington.

It wasn’t always like this, with Congress and the White House at a crisis over government funding. The House and Senate used to pass annual appropriation bills, and the president signed them into law. But in recent years the shutdown scenario has become so routine that it raises the question: Have shutdowns as a negotiating tool lost their punch?

Monday brought few signs of progress. A partial shutdown that could occur at midnight Friday risks disrupting government operations and leaving hundreds of thousands of federal employees furloughed or working without pay over the holiday season. Costs would be likely in the billions of dollars.

Trump was meeting with his team and getting regular updates, said White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Trump was also tweeting Monday to keep up the pressure.

Exiting a Senate Republican leadership meeting late Monday, Sen. John Thune of South Dakota said, “It looks like it probably is going to have to build for a few days here before there’s a solution.”

The president is insisting on $5 billion for the wall along the southern border with Mexico, but he does not have the votes from the Republican-led Congress to support it. Democrats are offering to continue funding at current levels, $1.3 billion, not for the wall but for fencing and other border security.

It’s unclear how many House Republicans, with just a few weeks left in the majority before relinquishing power to House Democrats, will even show up midweek for possible votes. Speaker Paul Ryan’s office had no update. Many Republicans say it’s up to Trump and Democrats to cut a deal.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Trump talk most days, but the senator’s spokesman would not confirm if they spoke Monday about a plan. McConnell opened the chamber hoping for a “bipartisan collaborative spirit” that would enable Congress to finish its work.

“We need to make a substantial investment in the integrity of our border,” McConnell said. “And we need to close out the year’s appropriation process.”

Meanwhile more than 800,000 government workers are preparing for the uncertainty ahead.

The dispute could affect nine of 15 Cabinet-level departments and dozens of agencies, including the departments of Homeland Security, Transportation, Interior, Agriculture, State and Justice, as well as national parks and forests.

About half the workers …read more

Source:: Time – Politics


Michael Flynn Heads to Court for His Sentencing Today

WASHINGTON — Michael Flynn will likely walk out of a courtroom a free man due to his extensive cooperation with federal prosecutors, but the run-up to his sentencing hearing Tuesday has exposed raw tensions over an FBI interview in which he lied about his Russian contacts.

The former national security adviser’s lawyers have suggested that investigators discouraged him from having an attorney present during the January 2017 interview and never informed him it was a crime to lie. Prosecutors shot back, “He does not need to be warned it is a crime to lie to federal agents to know the importance of telling them the truth.”

Good luck today in court to General Michael Flynn. Will be interesting to see what he has to say, despite tremendous pressure being put on him, about Russian Collusion in our great and, obviously, highly successful political campaign. There was no Collusion!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 18, 2018

On Monday evening, the dispute— and a judge’s intervention— led prosecutors to publicly file a redacted copy of the notes from Flynn’s FBI interview that largely bolster the case, showing he told agents things he later said were false.

Still, the mere insinuation of underhanded tactics has been startling given the seemingly productive relationship between the two sides, and it was especially striking since prosecutors with special counsel Robert Mueller’s office have praised Flynn’s cooperation and recommended against prison time. The defense arguments spurred speculation that Flynn may be trying to get sympathy from President Donald Trump or may be playing to a judge known for a zero-tolerance view of government misconduct.

“It’s an attempt, I think, to perhaps characterize Flynn as a victim or perhaps to make him look sympathetic in the eyes of a judge — and, at the same time, to portray the special counsel in a negative light,” said former federal prosecutor Jimmy Gurule, a University of Notre Dame law school professor.

Until the dueling memos were filed last week, Flynn had cooperated extensively and largely eschewed the aggressive tactics of others involved in the Mueller probe.

Prosecutors, for instance, have accused former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort of lying to them even after he agreed to cooperate. Another potential target, Jerome Corsi, leaked draft court documents and accused Mueller’s team of bullying him. And George Papadopoulos, a Trump campaign adviser recently released from a two-week prison sentence, has lambasted the investigation …read more

Source:: Time – Politics


Why is the government shutting down? The same reason it always does.

It is fitting somehow that President Trump’s announcement that he would be “proud” to shut down parts of the federal government in the hope of securing funds for a border wall came just as a federal judge in Texas ruled the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional. Years ago Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) argued that he had no choice but to force a shutdown after Barack Obama unsurprisingly refused to sign a budget that would have defunded his signature domestic policy.

For his efforts, Cruz was dismissed as a far-right crank, a poseur, a cheap grifter who raised millions of dollars with his stunt. He might well have been all of these things. But the logic of his argument — that Congress is well within its rights when it refuses to fund the president’s pet projects — is sound enough. It is certainly convincing to Democratic leaders in Congress, who are saying exactly the same thing today. Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer are doubly lucky because they find themselves squaring off against a president who, unlike Obama, is happy to present himself as the intransigent party.

The idea that a president should ultimately defer to Congress on prudential questions about spending is the sort of thing that sounds like wisdom if you happen to side with the opposition. It is also the attitude that ensures that government shutdowns are going to become a regular feature of American politics. As long as Congress holds the power of the purse there will be disagreements with the White House over budgets. These disagreements are frequently intractable.

There is, of course, another possibility, one that would prevent shutdowns from ever taking place. We could simply invest the executive with the power to approve funding for federal agencies if Congress does not present him with a budget. Perhaps as I write this, the White House counsel is discovering that this very power already lurks somewhere in the dense verbal jungles of Article II of the Constitution. It would certainly be in keeping with the seemingly irreversible trends towards the concentration of power in the executive branch and the transformation of the American system into a kind of Westminister-lite arrangement. Would this be such a bad thing?

How you answer this will very likely depend upon your opinion of the president who happens to be in power. Under President Obama, liberals were intoxicated by the idea of his exercising the same …read more

Source:: The Week – Politics