Trump’s escape route narrows


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On the roster: Trump’s escape route narrows - Senate rejects two bills to end shutdown - Left wing in a flap over Harris’s backstory - The Judge’s Ruling: Drip drip drip… - A very Canadian crime spree

TRUMP’S ESCAPE ROUTE NARROWS  

Donald Trump is the president of the United States in substantial part because of our nation’s broken immigration regime. Whether he is re-elected will substantially depend on his ability to repair it.

There is understandable attention being paid to the upset among the president’s core supporters about discussions from the White House about expanding the debate over border security to include accommodations for at least some of those people in the country illegally. The anger is real.

Steve King, the nativist Republican congressman from western Iowa, denounced the president’s modest proposition last weekend to grant a three-year extension to protections provided by former President Barack Obama for those who were brought to the United States illegally as minors. 

King, a pariah to most Republicans, is still respected by the hardest of immigration hardliners. “If [Delayed Action for Childhood Arrivals] amnesty is traded for $5.7 billion (1/5 of a wall),” King tweeted, “wouldn’t be enough illegals left in America to trade for the remaining 4/5. NO AMNESTY 4 a wall!” 

So, not a fan…

Certainly, the president’s acquiescence to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s refusal to host him for a State of the Union Address while the partial government shutdown continues has exacerbated those fears. Also unnerving to nativists and aggressive restrictionists are the trial balloons being floated about granting permanent legal status to some DACA recipients. 

Or this from National Journal: “One Republican pollster, granted anonymity to be candid, noted that White House counselor Kellyanne Conway ‘has been doing immigration polling for years and knows as well as anyone else where conservatives are on a pathway to citizenship, and we have to assume she’s getting pretty good numbers and advice on this.’”

Relative to the larger electorate, there aren’t many voters who take King’s position. But they constitute a vocal, influential and growing minority. Consider our latest Fox News poll. A year ago, just 4 percent of voters said that building “the wall” and/or immigration should be Trump’s top priority. Now it’s 16 percent.

Support for “building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border” is back to its highest level – 43 percent – since its high in the fall of 2015, just as Trump fever started to spread in the Republican electorate. And among those voters who favor such a wall, 69 percent want the president to keep the government shut down until Democrats yield to his demand. That means something like 30 percent of the entire electorate wants the shutdown only to end with “the wall” – whatever that now means – being built.

That’s not a small number, certainly larger than the 19 percent who oppose the wall and want House Democrats to hold the line until Trump buckles. 

Trump has done a good job – probably too good of a job – in building support for an absolutist position on both the shutdown and “the wall.” His Terpsichore about “steel slats” and the like reveal that he recognizes that the mental pictures he drew for years about a solid concrete barrier has become an *ahem* barrier to his larger ambitions.

Trump is transparent about what he wants, telling supporters he will only support “amnesty” (which means very different things to different people) as part of “a much bigger deal.”

Like every successful populist leader, Trump now faces the challenge of how to let his pitchfork brigade down easy and do so that tines aren’t suddenly pointed at him. How many would he lose in pursuit of a larger deal? How many would revolt in 2020?

But that is necessarily a secondary consideration. Trump has rapidly been losing the backing of marginally attached supporters – the same kinds of voters who held their nose and supported him in 2016 or made an untypical midterm vote for a Democratic candidate to send Trump a message.

Seventy five percent of voters said the shutdown is either an emergency or a major problem, and those numbers will continue to rise as the consequences of the stoppage climb higher and higher. 

What seems increasingly likely is that lawmakers are moving toward a deal that offers a short-term measure to fund the government in exchange for a binding deal to negotiate a deal on border security and legalization for some of the millions of illegal immigrants already in the country.

Would Trump sign such a deal or drink another dram of shutdown poison? We bet not. Would he be willing to commit himself to abide by the compromise? We bet not, too. But we certainly know that he needs this shutdown shut down soon and would likely grab any reasonable looking lifeline.

The best case scenario from Trump looks like a deal that ends the shutdown and simultaneously lets him claim to have fulfilled his promise to build “a wall.” And if he can do that, he would be in substantially better shape for re-election. It’s not clear that he can pull off such a fast one, but it’s increasingly clear that he’s running out of time to make his escape.

Another month of shutdown and it won’t matter if he built a wall as high as the Moon or if the Democrats nominate a kook, Trump will be toast.  
 
THE RULEBOOK: GOOD EYE
“A respect for truth, however, obliges us to remark, that [the founders] seem never for a moment to have turned their eyes from the danger to liberty from the overgrown and all-grasping prerogative of an hereditary magistrate, supported and fortified by an hereditary branch of the legislative authority.” – James Madison, Federalist No. 48

TIME OUT: BACK TO JUMP STREET 
Writer Max Marshall shares the remarkable story of a 25-year-old Texas man who managed to pass himself off as a 17-year-old high schooler for the chance to play basketball again. Sports Illustrated: “At his first full practice Rashun is the main attraction. The Panthers are an undersized team with few upperclassmen, and he can score more or less at will. One varsity guard, a New Yorker who grew up watching pickup games at Rucker Park, can tell Rashun is an elite streetballer by the way he drives to the basket in complete control of his dense body, looking for contact. Another player will later describe him as ‘a walking bucket’ and recount Coach Harris’s reaction to that first display: ‘You know what an old dude looks like when he raises his eyebrows?’ … Gossip, meanwhile, starts to focus on a few biographical details.”

Flag on the play? - Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.

SCOREBOARD
Trump job performance 
Average approval:
 39.8 percent
Average disapproval: 56 percent
Net Score: -16.2 points
Change from one week ago: up 1.2 points
[Average includes: Fox News: 43% approve - 54% disapprove; CBS News: 36% approve - 59% disapprove; NPR/PBS/Marist: 40% approve - 54% disapprove; Pew: 39% approve - 58% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 41% approve - 55% disapprove.]       

SENATE REJECTS TWO BILLS TO END SHUTDOWN
NYT: “A Democratic plan to reopen the government without money for President Trump’s border wall failed in the Senate on Thursday, sending lawmakers back to the drawing board to forge a compromise that could end the stalemate and bring about a quick resolution to a partial shutdown now nearing its sixth week. A half dozen Republicans crossed the aisle to vote for the measure, but the tally still fell short of the 60 votes it needed to advance, 52-44. The defeated measure is similar to one the Senate approved unanimously in December, only to see Mr. Trump reject it and the House cancel a planned vote on it. Republican views in the Senate have shifted dramatically since then to reflect the president’s. The action came just after Mr. Trump’s own proposal to reopen the government and devote $5.7 billion to his border wall failed on a similar near-party-line vote that underlined the depth of the divide. That measure paired wall funding with temporary legal protections for some immigrants and measures to make it more difficult to claim asylum in the United States.”

Officials signal shutdown could last much longer - Fox News: “Furloughed federal workers are bracing to miss their second paycheck and employee unions are warning of increasingly dire consequences since the partial government shutdown began last month, as officials signal the stalemate in Washington has no end in sight. … Those whose jobs are affected by the shutdown are now speaking out more forcefully about the impact on their own lives but also safety issues for the broader public. … On Friday, affected federal workers are set to miss their second paycheck since the partial government shutdown began. Every former secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, including former White House chief of staff John Kelly, sent a letter to the president and Congress on Thursday asking them restore the department’s funding.”

Billionaire commerce secretary scoffs at federal workers’ woes - Roll Call: “Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross says he does not understand why federal employees who are furloughed or have been working without pay during the partial government shutdown would need assistance from food banks. Several credit unions serving workers at federal departments and agencies have been offering stopgap loans, as they have during previous shutdowns. But it’s not clear how even those loans would be sufficient as the shutdown enters its second month. ‘I know they are, and I don’t really quite understand why,’ Ross said Thursday when asked on CNBC about workers getting food from places like shelters. ‘Because, as I mentioned before, the obligations that they would undertake, say borrowing from a bank or a credit union, are in effect federally guaranteed.’ But in addition to the federal employees who are set to miss another paycheck at the end of this week, there are many federal contractors who have no expectation of ever getting the missed payments back.”
 
Moderate Dems push Pelosi for a vote on border security funding - Roll Call: “Thirty Democrats sent a letter Wednesday to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, suggesting she guarantee President Donald Trump a vote on his border security funding request if he reopens the government. Led by freshmen Rep. Elaine Luria of Virginia, the letter lays out a process that would guarantee a House vote — but not passage — on the $5.7 billion Trump has requested in border wall funding, as well as other funding he is seeking for border security needs. The letter is not designed to signal support for the president’s funding request. Rather it is intended to lay out a process for the House to truly debate the proposal — with opportunities for Democratic amendments — in hopes that would be enough of a commitment for Trump to agree to reopen the government. … [Luria] said it is not meant to suggest a disagreement with Democratic leadership’s position of not negotiating until the government is reopen.”

Ocasio-Cortez votes against reopening government over ICE funding - Roll Call: “House Democrats passed two more bills Wednesday to reopen the government that most Republicans continued to oppose, but there was one surprise in the otherwise predictable floor proceedings — freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez voted ‘no.’ The New York Democrat, a rising star in the progressive wing of the party with a massive social media following, explained her vote on Instagram.  ‘Most of our votes are pretty straightforward, but today was a tough/nuanced call,’ Ocasio-Cortez wrote on her Instagram story showing her walking to House votes with her policy team. ‘We didn’t vote with the party because one of the spending bills included ICE funding, and our community felt strongly about not funding that.’”

LEFT WING IN A FLAP OVER HARRIS’S BACKSTORY
Politico: “[Kamala Harris] … often speaks about her childhood growing up on the boundary between Oakland and Berkeley, the daughter of an Indian-born mother and a Jamaican-born father who pushed her in civil rights marches in a stroller. Her advisers believe that, like Barack Obama once did, Harris could appeal not only to white progressives in 2020 Democratic primary states like Iowa and California but also to black voters in the primary’s critical Southern states. Harris has drawn on her record as a prosecutor, both in San Francisco and as California attorney general, to lend an intimacy to her progressive views on criminal justice reform. Yet she has struggled to reconcile her work as a prosecutor with the Democratic Party’s evolution on criminal justice in the age of the Black Lives Matter and #MeToo movements. Her first race for district attorney—and her entry into San Francisco’s fractious Democratic Party politics—reared her as a politician and offered a preview of her still-unfolding efforts to resolve those tensions with some of the party’s most leftward-tilting voters.”

Warren reportedly to propose new ‘wealth tax’ - WaPo: “Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) will propose a new annual ‘wealth tax’ on Americans with more than $50 million in assets, according to an economist advising her on the plan, as Democratic leaders vie for increasingly aggressive solutions to the nation’s soaring wealth inequality. Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman, two left-leaning economists at the University of California, Berkeley, have been advising Warren on a proposal to levy a 2 percent wealth tax on Americans with assets above $50 million, as well as a 3 percent wealth tax on those who have more than $1 billion, according to Saez. The wealth tax would raise $2.75 trillion over a ten-year period from about 75,000 families, or less than 0.1 percent of U.S. households, Saez said. Warren’s campaign declined to comment on details of the plan.”

THE JUDGE’S RULING: DRIP DRIP DRIP…
This week Fox News Senior Judicial Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano explains how President Trump’s legal woes have worsened after the BuzzFeed News report: “After the BuzzFeed piece had stirred the pot of media interest and Democrats' lust for Trump's political scalp, Mueller issued a very rare one-liner stating that the references in the BuzzFeed piece to what he had received from Cohen were ‘not accurate.’ … The BuzzFeed saga is not all black-and-white and has been exacerbated considerably by the president's public-facing lawyer, Rudolph Giuliani. … We also know that Giuliani actually went beyond the BuzzFeed allegations. … So why is Giuliani revealing all this to the media? Here's why. He is following an age-old trial lawyer practice. If the government has evidence harmful to your client, it is easier for the public and the jury to accept the harmful evidence if defense counsel reveals it first, drop by drop, rather than permit the government to release it all at once like an anvil falling into a pond.” More here.

Cohen subpoenaed to testify before Senate Intel Committee - Fox News: “The Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday issued a subpoena to Michael Cohen to appear before the panel, a day after the former Trump attorney postponed scheduled testimony before another congressional committee. Cohen’s attorney and communications adviser Lanny Davis told Fox News that the committee, led by Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., and Ranking Member Mark Warner, D-Va., served his client with a subpoena Thursday morning. The committee’s decision to subpoena Cohen comes after Davis announced on Wednesday that a public hearing before the House Oversight Committee, slated for Feb. 7, would be postponed due to alleged threats from the president and his attorney, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.”

PLAY-BY-PLAY
Dems go all out to recruit Stacey Abrams for Senate run - Politico

House Ways and Means Chairman Neal wants Trump’s tax returns but not in a rush - Roll Call

Read this: ‘The Media Botched the Covington Catholic Story’ - Atlantic

AUDIBLE: RIIIIIGHT
“You can teach a goat to climb a tree, but you should have hired a squirrel in the first place.” – Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., talking to reporters about a Democratic proposal on the shutdown.

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A VERY CANADIAN CRIME SPREE
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation: “A Springbrook, Alta., woman experienced the most Canadian of carjackings on Tuesday, which saw a thief with a gun return her purse, phone and lunch... The woman was on her way to work … when she came across a collision between a pickup truck and a school bus… so the woman stopped and got out to see if he needed help. … ‘And that's when he turned further and I saw he had a bandana over his face.’ … ‘He asked if I had any children in the back of the vehicle. I said no. Then he asked me if there was anything I needed, like my phone, and I said ‘Yes, if you're going to leave me in –20 C on a gravel road, I would appreciate my phone,’ so he gave me my phone, my purse and my lunchbag.’ ‘I said, ‘Thank you [for returning her things],’ and he said, ‘I'm sorry,’ and I said, ‘That's fine.’”

AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“Trump so thoroughly owns the political stage today that the word Clinton seems positively quaint and Barack Obama, who happens to be president of the United States, is totally irrelevant.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in the National Review on Dec. 9, 2016. 

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.