**Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.**
On the roster: Can Trump triangulate? - Issa calls quits, boosts Dem chances for House takeover - Budget deal grows with GOP push for defense spending - Judge checks Trump on DREAMers - Icy Hot, IRL
CAN TRUMP TRIANGULATE?
These are said to be anxious times for the populist insurgents who toppled the Republican establishment in 2016 and propelled Donald Trump into the presidency.
Their onetime champion in the White House, Steve Bannon, has quickly descended from a perch as lofty as the National Security Council to banishment and disgrace after helping deliver back-to-back special election defeats in Alabama for his former boss and getting caught once too often trashing Trump’s progeny in public.
Meantime, the forces of the old order are ascendant. Having delivered in the nick of time a major first-year legislative success for the president with tax cuts and having brought new measures of purpose and order to the once-rampageous White House, the corporatist claque that traditionally steers the GOP seems to have regained the rudder.
Team Chaos is in retreat, damaged not just by – duh – chaos, but also the ongoing depredations of the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election. America’s head prefect, Special Counsel Robert Mueller, has already laid low some key figures of early populist Trumpism and many of the others are now preoccupied with contemplating multipliers on the hourly billing rate sheets for Washington criminal defense lawyers.
Saying you’re “wired” used to be a good thing in Washington. Not so much these days.
House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have played a relatively long game with Trump. After weathering the early turmoil of “American carnage” rhetoric, unforced errors on the Russia probe, hit-and-miss appointments, Bannonian over-swings on policy and the triple-Lindy bellyflop on ObamaCare without getting to full rupture, Ryan, McConnell and Trump have established – for now – a fruitful partnership.
Mitt Romney is gearing up a Senate run, earmarks are back on the board, Trump is getting ready to head for Davos and Bannon is heading for a late lunch at Denny’s. All that says a great deal about the manner of MAGA in the first weeks of 2018. Who’s draining whom, here?
But nothing, of course, says as much about the condition of Trumpism as the issue that launched the movement in the first place: immigration.
A great alarm that went up among the presidents earliest and most ardent supporters at his remark Tuesday in a televised immigration negotiation with congressional Republicans and Democrats, during which Trump spoke of an immigration policy of “love” (sorry, Jeb Bush) and, most significantly saying of a deal that would trade tougher enforcement for amnesty for illegal immigrants already in the country: “If you want to take it that further step, I’ll take the heat. I will take all the heat. You are not that far away from comprehensive immigration reform.”
Now, it would be a mistake to take any president too literally in a moment like this one, doubly so for one to whom such pronouncements are as steamed spinach is to a Vitamix. But, coming as it did after the unpersoning of Bannon and weeks of celebrating tax cuts with the GOP establishment, it caught Trump’s most nationalistic supporters just wrong.
Warnings of “one-term” and “betrayal” and the like flew up on social media and on air. If Trump cut a deal on the more than 10 million illegal immigrants, they said they would make him pay.
Bannon, already plotting his return (presumably muttering into his order of Moons Over My Hammy) sent word through one of his many, many press contacts that he was already building a political network to “help” Trump after the establishment abandoned him.
According to our Bannonese to American translator, “help” means come after Trump’s family, generate a bajillion self-serving stories about Republican civil war and then lose safely held Republican seats.
The problem for those who believe they now hold Trump hostage over immigration is that they are in the small minority of Americans on the subject, even within their own party on some issues.
We should remember from the outset that Americans overwhelmingly favor a fairer, more orderly and better enforced policy on immigration. One of the main reasons that Trump is president today is that leaders in both parties somehow forgot that obvious truth between 2011 and 2016.
But when it comes to what to do about the so-called DREAMers – young adults brought to the United States as minors – there’s also overwhelming sentiment in favor of mercy. December polls from WSJ/NBC News and Quinnipiac University found similar results with supermajorities in both surveys wanting to let the DREAMers stay.
Quinnipiac even asked about letting them and offering a chance to become citizens – 77 percent favored that plan.
That’s reflective of the last Fox News poll on the subject, taken in September, when our pollsters inquired about all illegal immigrants, not just those brought as minors. What should become of those millions already working in the U.S.? Should they be deported in as large a number as possible or offered a way to become legal residents?
Eighty-three percent favored legalization over deportation for all illegal immigrants and 79 percent favored outright citizenship following background checks for DREAMers. Just 12 percent supported the administration’s threatened revocation of work permits.
With numbers like these, it’s hardly unreasonable to think that Trump could get away with doing on immigration what Bill Clinton did on welfare and steal the issue right out from under the Democrats’ noses. And if Trump gets a sturdy section of border wall and keeps ratcheting up enforcement of existing laws, those numbers would likely look even better.
And just wait until Democrats start howling about how tough and unfair the demands of the White House demands are. Throw in some media think pieces on the subtle racism/gender inequality of immigration reform and you’ll have opposition down to single digits!
As much as the Blue Team would hate to lose the issue as a political tool, the same nationalist/populist factions that helped launch the Trump 2016 dirigible would hate it even more. Immigration outrage has been the top topic of the anti-establishment wing of the GOP since at least 2007, when they stuffed habaneros up George W. Bush’s nose over the subject.
None of this is to say that it is certain or even likely that Trump will execute a Clintonian (him, not her) pivot as his presidency progresses. This has been an especially reactive, jolty administration and crafting a deal like that one requires relatively long spells of steadiness. And, of course, the razor-sharp asterisk of the Russia probe could slice things to bits any given day.
But what if Trump got even half a deal? Or even showed considerable progress toward an agreement?
Bannon may be right that the political establishment would drop Trump like a hot rock when he comes too inconvenient. But what if the lift gets easier and lighter? What if Trump gets even a bit more popular as the worst predictions of his fiery and furious term fail to come to pass and Americans learn to tune out more of this splenetic venting?
Again, neither certain nor likely. We have seen many a man and woman go wrong betting that this was finally the Trump pivot. But having been betrayed by the leader of his self-styled palace guard and gifted success by his former establishment foes, if ever there was a moment for Trump to try triangulation, this would surely be it.
THE RULEBOOK: MMMMHMM…
“Sometimes whole circles are defaulters; and then they increase the mischief which they were instituted to remedy.” – Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, Federalist No. 19
TIME OUT: ALMOST HEAVEN
Atlantic: “In 2007, astrophysicists at West Virginia University stumbled upon something strange… [And] On Wednesday, [Jason Hessels] and other members of an international team of astronomers announced new results from their observations … [from] the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico and the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia. … They found the radio waves were highly polarized, a property that describes the nature of the vibrations as they travel through space. When they arrived at Earth, the polarized radio waves exhibited something known as the Faraday rotation, a phenomenon in which waves become twisted as they propagate through strong magnetic fields. …The more powerful the magnetic field is, the more severe the twisting becomes as radio waves move through it. And the twisting in this case was dramatic. Scientists have only seen an effect of this magnitude in one other place—at the center of our galaxy, where a supermassive black hole lurks.”
Flag on the play? - Email us at
HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.
Trump net job-approval rating: -22 points
Change from one week ago: down 1.4 points
[President Trump’s score is determined by subtracting his average job disapproval rating in the five most recent, methodologically sound public polls from his average approval rating, calculated in the same fashion.]
ISSA CALLS QUITS, BOOSTS DEM CHANCES FOR HOUSE TAKEOVER
The Hill: “Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) announced Wednesday that he will not seek reelection this year, increasing Democrats’ chances of flipping his swing district in their favor. Issa barely won reelection in 2016 by just over half a percentage point in a San Diego-area district that went for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton by about 7 points. ‘Throughout my service, I worked hard and never lost sight of the people our government is supposed to serve. Yet with the support of my family, I have decided that I will not seek re-election in California's 49th District,’ Issa said in a statement. The former House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman faced a tough path to reelection in an increasingly Democratic district. The lack of a 17-year incumbent will now make it easier for Democrats to win the district as they seek to win back the House this year. Issa’s retirement offers yet another boon to House Democrats in California.”
Poll shows Arpaio and McSally neck and neck in Arizona - KNXV: “A Tuesday poll from ABC15/OHPI shows Joe Arpaio skyrocketing to the top of the Republican Primary for U.S. Senate in Arizona. The poll, conducted the same day Arpaio announced his Senate run, shows the former sheriff with 29% of the vote, a statistical tie with first place candidate Martha McSally at 31%. Former state senator Kelli Ward, who has been the front runner in recent polls, drops to 25% in this latest survey. The poll mirrors initial speculation that Arpaio could edge out Ward and create an opening for McSally, who colleagues have said is planning a Senate run but has not yet made an announcement. Arpaio takes an even more notable jump when considering hypothetical endorsements that candidates may receive.”
Hoyer urged a candidate to end his primary campaign - Colorado Politics: “Minority Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the No. 2 Democrat in House leadership, encouraged Democrat Levi Tillemann to end his primary campaign in Colorado’s 6th Congressional District during a December meeting at a Denver hotel, saying that state and national congressional and party leaders had decided ‘very early on’ to consolidate their resources behind another Democrat, Jason Crow, to run against Republican incumbent Mike Coffman, according to detailed notes Tillemann wrote immediately after the meeting.”
Silver: ‘Are Democrats’ Senate Chances In 2018 Overrated?’ - FiveThirtyEight: “After Democrat Doug Jones won a stunning victory in Alabama’s special election for the U.S. Senate last month, lots of smart people whose work I read and follow, such as The New York Times’s Nate Cohn, declared that the battle for Senate control in 2018 was a ‘toss-up.’ Prediction markets largely concur; after Jones’s win, the betting odds of Democrats taking over the Senate shot up to about 45 percent. I think this might be premature. Winning in Alabama certainly makes the Democrats’ path easier: They could now gain control of the Senate by retaining all of their own seats, plus picking up the Republican held-seats in purplish Nevada and Arizona. But they’re probably still the underdogs.”
Trump provides boost to Scott Senate run with drilling relief - Politico: “Donald Trump delivered a big political contribution to Rick Scott on Tuesday as the Florida governor contemplates a bid for U.S. Senate: a pledge to spare Florida from administration plans to expand offshore oil drilling nationwide. The surprise announcement from Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke — who went to the trouble of flying to Tallahassee to stand beside Scott — outraged environmentalists and Democrats who insist the decision was a political ploy that unlawfully gave preferential treatment to Florida, a swing state that voted for Trump and that’s home to his so-called ‘Winter White House’ escape at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach.”
Last Republican running in Ohio gives fundraising boost to himself - WOSU: “The remaining Republican running for U.S. Senate wants to show he’s serious about his bid to win the GOP’s nomination, and ready to take on Democratic incumbent
Sherrod Brown this fall. Cleveland-area businessman Mike Gibbons has heard the criticism that he’s not able to raise the money needed to take on Brown. So he says he’ll put $5 million of his own money in his campaign coffers, now that front runner Josh Mandel is out of the race. At the end of the reporting period last fall, Brown had more than $8 million in the bank. State Treasurer Josh Mandel, who was the front runner in fundraising for that race then, had more than $4 million on hand. Gibbons was trailing way behind with just $638,000.”
Vance is now ‘seriously considering’ running for Senate - Columbus Dispatch: “Columbus resident and Hillbilly Elegy author J.D. Vance is more than flirting with a run for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate following the exit of Treasurer Josh Mandel from the race. ‘J.D. is seriously considering a run at this point,’ said Jai Chabria, a former top adviser to Gov. John Kasich who now is working with Vance, who has never sought or held elective office. … ‘There’s been an unbelievable amount of support both from Ohio Republican leaders and people with an interest in the Ohio Senate race from a national perspective,’ Chabria said Wednesday morning.”
Judges toss North Carolina gerrymander - [Raleigh] News and Observer: “A panel of federal judges struck down North Carolina’s election districts for U.S. Congress on Tuesday as unconstitutional partisan gerrymanders and gave lawmakers until Jan. 29 to bring them new maps to correct the problem. The ruling comes in cases filed by the League of Women Voters and Common Cause in North Carolina stemming from maps adopted in 2016 during a special legislative session. It throws a new wrinkle and more uncertainty into the 2018 election cycle in North Carolina a month before candidates were scheduled to file for office.”
SCOTUS listen to Ohio plan targeting inactive voters - AP: “The Supreme Court appeared sympathetic Wednesday to states that seek to prune their voting rolls by targeting people who haven’t voted in a while. The justices heard arguments in a case from Ohio, among a handful of states that use voters’ inactivity to trigger a process that could lead to their removal from voter rolls. A ruling for Ohio could prompt other states to adopt the practice, which generally pits Democrats against Republicans. Signaling support for Ohio’s defense of the process, Justice Anthony Kennedy said states are ‘trying to protect their voter rolls...What we’re talking about is the best tools for that purpose.’”
BUDGET DEAL GROWS WITH GOP PUSH FOR DEFENSE SPENDING
WSJ: “The brewing budget deal on Capitol Hill could get much larger thanks to a late Republican push for a bigger boost in defense spending. As the spotlight has been on immigration negotiations, lawmakers and aides have been working behind the scenes to hammer out a two-year deal that would not only prevent the budget limits known as the sequester from kicking in, but potentially raise spending beyond that. While many expected lawmakers to eventually reach an agreement adding $200 billion over two years over sequester levels, that sum would grow if a GOP push to ramp up military spending even more is successful. Both Republicans and Democrats want to prevent spending limits established in 2011 from kicking in. Without congressional action, defense spending would be shaved by $54 billion and nondefense spending would see a $37 billion cut in fiscal 2018, which ends in September.”
Womack gets initial nod for Budget chairman - The Hill: “Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.) has won support from the Republican Steering Committee to chair the House Budget Committee, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) announced Tuesday evening. If approved by the full GOP conference, Womack will replace budget Chairwoman Diane Black (R), who is stepping down from the post to focus on her 2018 bid for Tennessee governor. The Steering Committee, a powerful panel of leadership allies led by Ryan, also recommended that Rep. Darin LaHood (R-Ill.) replace retiring Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio) on the Ways and Means Committee, the influential tax-writing panel announced Tuesday.”
JUDGE CHECKS TRUMP ON DREAMERS
Fox News: “President Trump blasted America’s ‘broken’ and ‘unfair’ court system Wednesday, just hours after a federal judge blocked the administration from turning back the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which shielded more than 700,000 people from deportation. ‘It just shows everyone how broken and unfair our Court System is when the opposing side in a case (such as DACA) always runs to the 9th Circuit and almost always wins before being reversed by higher courts,’ Trump tweeted Wednesday morning. The president’s tweet was in reference to an injunction made by U.S. District Judge William Alsup from San Francisco, who ruled late Tuesday that the DACA program must stay intact until a final judgment is reached — meaning those already approved for DACA protections and work permits must be allowed to renew them before they expire. The court’s order doesn’t change the administration’s ‘position on the facts,’ the Justice Department said.”
7-Eleven stores are new target for immigration crackdown - WaPo: “U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents blitzed dozens of 7-Eleven stores before dawn Wednesday to interview employees and deliver audit notifications, carrying out what the agency said was the largest operation targeting an employer since President Trump took office. ICE said its agents showed up at 98 stores and made 21 arrests, describing the operation as a warning to other companies who may have unauthorized workers on their payroll. ‘Today’s actions send a strong message to U.S. businesses that hire and employ an illegal workforce: ICE will enforce the law, and if you are found to be breaking the law, you will be held accountable,’ said Thomas D. Homan, the agency’s top official, in a statement. Homan characterized the operation as a new front in the Trump administration’s broader immigration crackdown and its effort to increase deportations.”
Immigration hardline Dems gum up votes - WashEx: “Democrats tried to hold up legislative work in the House on Wednesday by demanding votes that it adjourn three times, forcing Republicans to waste time on these procedural motions each time.
Democrats disapprove of the Trump administration's decision to revoke temporary protected status for thousands of Salvadorans, and also oppose the GOP plan to impose tougher border restrictions as part of a larger immigration plan.”
MUELLER ADDS MEMBER FOCUSED ON CYBER ISSUES TO TEAM
WaPo: “Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has added a veteran cyber prosecutor to his team, filling what has long been a gap in expertise and potentially signaling a recent focus on computer crimes. Ryan K. Dickey was assigned to Mueller’s team in early November from the Justice Department’s computer crime and intellectual-property section, said a spokesman for the special counsel’s office. He joined 16 other lawyers who are highly respected by their peers but who have come under fire from Republicans wary of some of their political contributions to Democrats. Dickey’s addition is particularly notable because he is the first publicly known member of the team specializing solely in cyber issues. The others’ expertise is mainly in a variety of white-collar crimes, including fraud, money laundering and public corruption, though Mueller also has appellate specialists and one of the government’s foremost experts in criminal law.”
‘Sneaky Dianne’ - Bloomberg: “President Donald Trump said Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein’s release of testimony on the controversial dossier alleging connections between the president and Russia was ‘underhanded and possibly illegal,’ and he called on Republicans to ‘take control’ of congressional probes. ‘The fact that Sneaky Dianne Feinstein, who has on numerous occasions stated that collusion between Trump/Russia has not been found, would release testimony in such an underhanded and possibly illegal way, totally without authorization, is a disgrace. Must have tough Primary!’ Trump wrote Wednesday on Twitter. … The committee’s Russia probe has dissolved into bitter partisan sniping, with Republicans and Democrats tangling over the origins of the dossier, which was funded in part by Trump’s political opponents, and how the FBI and other agencies may have used it in their investigations.”
Cohen files lawsuits against Fusion GPS, BuzzFeed - Politico: “Michael Cohen, longtime attorney for President Donald Trump, filed defamation lawsuits Tuesday evening against research firm Fusion GPS and BuzzFeed. The Fusion GPS lawsuit, which was filed at a federal court level, seeks $100 million in damages. A separate amount in damages for the BuzzFeed lawsuit, which was filed at the state court level, will be determined at trial, according to court documents obtained by POLITICO. ‘Enough is enough of the #fake #RussianDossier,’ Cohen tweeted Tuesday. ‘Just filed a defamation action against @BuzzFeedNews for publishing the lie filled document on @POTUS @realDonaldTrump and me!’”
Morris Fiorina: ‘The Meaning of Trump's Election Has Been Exaggerated’ - RCP
Manchin to back Trump’s Health secretary pick - WashEx
Administration will destroy voter data collected by abortive fraud probe - Politico
Rep. Jackie Speier brings “Me Too” movement to Hill, invites lawmakers to wear black to Trump's State of the Union - The Hill
Republican Governor Baker rocks a 74 percent approval rating in deep-blue Massachusetts - WBUR
WH aides have been notified to make decision: Leave now or stay through midterms - CBS News
“Discontinued.” – The judge presiding over what had been the divorce proceeding between former Clinton top aide Huma Abedin and disgraced former congressman Anthony Weiner, according to the NY Post, which reports that the couple has withdrawn their divorce petition.
Share your color commentary: Email us at
HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.
ICY HOT, IRL
Daily Hive: “A room in Canada’s very own ice hotel caught fire on Monday evening. Hôtel de Glace, located 35 minutes from Quebec City, is known for its beautiful rooms… made of ice. However, on Monday night, a fire was reported in one of the rooms occupied by two guests. Luckily, no one was seriously injured. ‘A small fire occurred at the Ice Hotel of Valcartier overnight on Monday, forcing the evacuation and temporary closure of the establishment,’ said the hotel in a press release sent to Daily Hive. ‘The fire began in a suite occupied by two customers. They were transported by ambulance and have been discharged by medical authorities.’ As a result of damage caused by the fire, the hotel will be closed on January 9 and 10.”
Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.