November 30, 2018

Michael Cohen's plea agreement with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, his admission that he lied about ending negotiations for a Trump Tower Moscow in January 2016, and the revelation that he was negotiating directly with the Kremlin were all big topics on cable news Thursday night. And on CNN and MSNBC, at least, there was a consensus that this is a big deal.

At CNN, Chris Cuomo fact-checked Trump's response to Cohen's plea. Trump's admission he knew about the Moscow negotiations and was aggressively pursuing such deals because he didn't think he was going to win the election "is very important in understanding why they would have kept doing this deal at a time when it would really smell bad," Cuomo said.

On MSNBC, BuzzFeed reporter Anthony Cormier explained why Cohen's deep knowledge of Trump's business makes him "a very dangerous threat" to Trump, Cohen friend Donny Deutsch affirmed that Cohen has enthusiastically flipped on Trump, and former FBI counterintelligence chief Frank Figliuzzi — who argued earlier Thursday that "our president is essentially a mob boss" — explained how what Cohen's revealed is "the definition of the Russian word Kompromat."

Trump handed Russia "a blackmailable set of facts" by lying about things the Russian government know are true, Figliuzzi said. "The question that's not answered in the information that's filed today by Mueller is what have the Russians done with that, what is the level of compromise, what is the level of coordination? ... Did Trump hand false answers to Mueller based on an understanding of what everyone he thought was saying? The Russians have all of this, the Russians have likely used it, and that's at the heart of what's being hidden by this president."

Fox News also covered the plea deal, in its own way. Below, for example, you can watch Tucker Carlson mock Cohen and complain that a series of Obama officials were not charged with lying to Congress "about things that actually matter." Peter Weber

January 23, 2019

President Trump tweeted late Wednesday night that he will give his State of the Union address once the government shutdown is over.

His announcement came after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) sent a letter informing him that she would not hold a vote on a resolution authorizing him to give his speech in the House chamber until the government re-opened. Trump tweeted that it was "her prerogative" to suggest that he deliver the State of the Union at a later date, and he will "do the Address when the Shutdown is over."

Trump also said he never looked for an alternative location to give the address, because "there is no venue that can complete with the history, tradition, and importance of the House Chamber. I look forward to giving a 'great' State of the Union Address in the near future!" Catherine Garcia

January 23, 2019

After 33 days of partial government shutdown, "the effects are piling up," Trevor Noah said on Wednesday's Daily Show. Low-income renters are losing housing aid, welfare is running low, the FBI is warning about not being able to pay informants, IRS employees are staying home, and the TSA is getting desperate. Basically, he joked, "the government is so broke, that they're selling ad space on the Constitution. And now, things seem to be moving in the wrong direction. Because instead of debating the wall or how to end the shutdown, politicians are arguing about a whole new issue: the State of the Union speech."

Noah ran through Wednesday's drama, from President Trump saying he still planned to give the State of the Union speech from the House next week to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) telling him no, not while the government is shut down. Trump can't speak in the House without an invitation and Pelosi isn't inviting him, but "at the same time, this is Donald Trump — you can't tell him where he can and can't go," Noah said. "This is the same guy who popped up in the dressing room of the Miss Teen USA pageant." He had some fun imagining a "congressional bouncer" keeping Trump out of the House chamber.

That won't be necessary, because "in a surprise move, the president surrendered," Noah said. He showed Trump's comments, which sounded like "he's choosing the next word on his predictive text," among other oddities. "I don't know if Nancy gave Trump a wedgie behind Congress one day, but she did something because she's the only person he hasn't given a nickname to," he noted. "Everyone else he's like: Cryin' Chuck Schumer, Liddle Marco Rubio, Pocahontas Elizabeth Warren, Lyin' Ted Ted. And he's like, 'Nancy Pelosi, or as I call her, Nancy.'" Noah also questioned whether the FBI is really out of cash, and you can watch below. Peter Weber

January 23, 2019

Feeling confident after helping pass criminal justice legislation, Jared Kushner is now certain he has the negotiating skills to end the government shutdown, now the longest one in U.S. history.

The Washington Post interviewed two dozen lawmakers, people close to President Trump, and friends of Kushner, all of whom had differing opinions of Kushner's political prowess. As a senior adviser and son-in-law to Trump, Kushner has his ear, and he told the president that because he has good relationships with many Senate Democrats, including Senate Minority Whip Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), he feels he can reach a deal on his own. Kushner really is flying solo on this one, doing much of his work out of his West Wing office (which, apropos of nothing, has a Kanye West poster above the door) and away from other White House officials because he doesn't really trust them, the Post reports.

Every morning, Kushner meets with Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and a handful of others to discuss strategy, White House aides said, and he's warned Trump against declaring a national emergency. While one senior Democratic aide described Kushner as being "totally a nonentity" and a senior White House aide called him "delusional" to think he'll end the shutdown, his old friend Ken Kurson was effusive with his praise, saying Kushner "could teach a master class in getting to yes" and has "helped the president put together a series of wins that many of those same pundits said were impossible. ... I think everyone in America, on all political sides, is glad Jared Kushner is in the room." Catherine Garcia

January 23, 2019

On Wednesday, five former Homeland Security secretaries — including ex-White House chief of staff John Kelly — sent a letter to President Trump and members of Congress, urging them to "fund the critical mission" of the Department of Homeland Security.

NBC News obtained a copy of the letter, signed by Kelly, Tom Ridge, Michael Chertoff, Janet Napolitano, and Jeh Johnson, which states that "homeland security is national security," and the department's more than 240,000 employees need to be paid. "DHS employees who protect the traveling public, investigate and counter terrorism, and protect critical infrastructure should not have to rely on the charitable generosity of others for assistance in feeding their families and paying their bills while they steadfastly focus on the mission at hand," the former secretaries said. "This is unconscionable."

During other government shutdowns, Congress has voted to fund the workforce of national security agencies, and the letter urges lawmakers to do the same thing this time around. Otherwise, the ex-secretaries warn, DHS employees will leave for the private sector, leaving critical positions empty. They ended the letter by saying they are "awed by the sacrifices that the men and women of DHS and their families make every day and their extraordinary service to our nation." Catherine Garcia

January 23, 2019

No one at the White House expected House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to disinvite President Trump from giving this year's State of the Union address in the House chamber, so when she did, they clambered to come up with a way to respond, CNN reports.

Last week, Pelosi asked Trump to postpone the address until the government shutdown is over, so on Wednesday, White House staffers were prepared for her to just delay the speech, officials told CNN. Trump thought he had the upper hand when he sent her a letter pushing back against her concerns that it's not safe for him to deliver the State of the Union during the shutdown. Pelosi responded by sending Trump a letter informing him that "the House of Representatives will not consider a concurrent resolution authorizing the president's State of the Union address in the House chamber until the government has opened."

White House staffers are now scrambling to find a different venue, but running into issues everywhere they turn. Several officials are concerned that if Trump decides to give the State of the Union during a rally, it not only won't be covered by the networks, but Trump will go off track and start rambling about something else. There's talk that Trump should deliver the address from the Oval Office or another area in the White House, officials told CNN, but Trump was not a fan of the speech on immigration he gave in the Oval Office earlier this month, and judging by polls, voters weren't either. Catherine Garcia

January 23, 2019

White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney has asked agency leaders to send him a list, due no later than Friday, of the programs that would suffer most if the government shutdown continues into March or April, people with knowledge of the matter told The Washington Post on Wednesday.

This is the first known White House request for information about the affect the shutdown is having on agencies, the Post notes, and suggests the Trump administration doesn't expect it to end anytime soon. Because of the shutdown, now the longest in U.S. history, 800,000 government employees have missed a paycheck, and if things stay the way they are, they'll miss a second one in a few days.

The White House has mostly focused on how the shutdown is affecting wait times at airport security, not the programs being interrupted, the Post reports. There's a lot to start worrying about: after Feb. 1, major operations within the federal court system will likely come to a standstill, and the Department of Agriculture does not have enough money to distribute food stamp benefits to about 40 million people in March. On Wednesday, the U.S. General Services Administration, which manages leases and contracts, told several departments that if the shutdown goes into February, there is no plan on how to pay the utility bills and lease payments next month. Catherine Garcia

January 23, 2019

The House Oversight Committee announced on Wednesday it is launching an inquiry into the White House security clearance process.

The committee is now led by Democrats, and its chairman, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), sent the White House a letter stating the probe is due to "grave breaches of national security at the highest level of the Trump administration." The goal of the investigation, he added, is to "determine why the White House and transition team appear to have disregarded established procedures for safeguarding classified information, evaluate the extent to which the nation's most highly guarded secrets were provided to officials who should not have had access to them, and develop reforms to remedy the flaws in current White House systems and practices."

The committee is requesting information on several current and former White House officials, including Jared Kushner, President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, and former aide Rob Porter, who was accused of spousal abuse. Despite the allegations against him, Porter was able to get an interim security clearance, and Kushner had to edit his application for a top-level clearance three times because he left out more than 100 foreign contacts. Catherine Garcia

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