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On the roster: Wall Street bites back - Dems win major court victory on House districts - McCain, Coons push limited deal on immigration - House Dems ready counterattack on Nunes memo - Yeah, youbetcha it’s a crime wave

It is irresistible for presidents and other politicians to try to take credit for economic success.

Today is a very pointed reminder of why that, in the whole, is a bad idea.

President Trump said that stock prices had been rallying for months because of his policies of deregulation and lower taxes, as well as the sheer force of his personality – that his election just made people feel better about the economy.

There are lots of things that have been weighing down markets in the past week or so, particularly the promise of future rate hikes at the Federal Reserve intended to cool down overheating inflation.

But another factor is Washington itself.

Republicans were very cheerful about last month’s government shutdown, and with good cause. Not only did the GOP surprise critics by passing a plan out of the House without the help of Democrats and the Blue Team caved quickly on their demand for a permanent protections for young adults who were brought to the United States illegally as minors in exchange for a vote to keep the government open.

Things are looking a little less appetizing for Republicans as they approach the fiscal cliff at midnight Thursday, and markets are no small part of that additional pressure.

Wall Street loves government spending, government-imposed low interest rates and low taxes. And politicians of both parties want to see the financial sector booming, even the politicians who play at pitchfork populism.

The enthusiasm in Washington to give Wall Street what it wants is well reflected in the new estimate from the Treasury Department that deficit spending for this fiscal year will skyrocket $955 billion, an 84 percent jump from last year.

As much as major markets and big business favor what looks like fiscal irresponsibility in Washington, they hate uncertainty. Not only does the more than $4 trillion spent by the federal government mean a great deal to overall economic activity, disruptions mean unpredictability and unpredictability means volatility.

We saw this clearly in 2008 when a cratering stock market forced Republicans and Democrats to do an about-face in regard to a $700 billion bailout package. Something similar also happened in the mid-1990s as bond markets started punishing excessive deficits in the early Clinton administration.

It would appear that we have a similarly potent brew this time around with a combination of increasing interest rates, sky rocketing deficits and Washington dysfunction that may result in multiple shutdowns and similar antics on a looming debt ceiling increase.

Having spent a year endlessly extoling the miracles of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, Trump is now finding that market movements can be a very bad thing for a presidency.

And if we are in the beginnings of a bear market to the degree that voters start seeing unhappy reports from their 401ks, the pressure on Washington to get its act together may grow to the point that we see some new functionality. It worked for Bill Clinton. Maybe it will work for Trump in the long run.

But as it relates to this week and our shut down countdown, lawmakers’ confidence is already tumbling.

“The violent destruction of life and property incident to war, the continual effort and alarm attendant on a state of continual danger, will compel nations the most attached to liberty to resort for repose and security to institutions which have a tendency to destroy their civil and political rights. To be more safe, they at length become willing to run the risk of being less free.” – Alexander HamiltonFederalist No. 8

Atlantic: “No one knows exactly when the clones first appeared, but humans only became aware of them in the early 2000s. It was a German aquarium owner who first brought it to scientists’ attention. In 1995, he had acquired a bag of ‘Texas crayfish’ from an American pet trader, only to find his tank inexplicably filling up with the creatures. They were all, it turns out, clones. Sometime, somewhere, the biological rule that making baby crayfish required a mama crayfish and papa crayfish was no longer inviolate. The eggs of the hobbyist’s all-female crayfish did not need to be fertilized. They simply grew into copies of their ‘mother’—in a process known as parthenogenesis. Crayfish specialists were astonished. No one had seen anything like it. But the proof was before their eyes and in 2003, scientists dubbed the creatures marble crayfish, or Marmorkreb in German.”

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Trump job performance 
Average approval: 
40.6 percent 
Average disapproval: 54.8 percent 
Net Score: 
-14.2 points
Change from one week ago: up 2.4 points
[Average includes: Gallup: 40% approve - 57% disapprove; Monmouth University: 44% approve - 48% disapprove; Fox News: 45% approve - 53% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 36% approve - 58% disapprove; ABC News/WaPo: 38% approve - 58% disapprove.]

Control of House
Republican average: 
40.8 percent
Democratic average: 48.4 percent
Advantage: Democrats plus 7.6 points 
Change from one week ago:
 Democratic advantage down 0.8 points  
[Average includes: Monmouth University: 47% Dems - 45% GOP; Fox News: 44% Dems - 38% GOP; Quinnipiac University: 51% Dems - 38% GOP; ABC News/WaPo: 51% Dems - 39% GOP; CNN: 49% Dems - 44% GOP.]

WaPo: “The Supreme Court on Monday denied a request from Pennsylvania Republicans to delay redrawing congressional lines, meaning the 2018 elections in the state will probably be held in districts far more favorable to Democrats. Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., who hears emergency requests from the state, turned down the petition without obvious objection from his colleagues. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court last month ruled that the state’s Republican legislative leaders had violated the state Constitution by unfairly favoring the GOP. Although there are more registered Democrats than Republicans in the state, Republicans hold 13 of 18 congressional seats. It is the most significant victory by critics of the way most congressional and legislative districts are drawn and a sign that their efforts will be felt as early as this fall’s midterm elections. Federal courts in Texas, North Carolina and Wisconsin found that either politics or intentional discrimination played an unacceptable role in drawing electoral lines…”

Poll finds Dem strength stems mainly from Democratic districts - ABC News: “The wide Democratic advantage in congressional vote preference comes entirely in districts the party already holds, raising questions about the extent of its possible gains in November. Yet the closeness of the contests in GOP-held districts underscores this year’s Republican vulnerability. Democrats lead by 14 points among likely voters in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, a result reported previously. But that reflects a vast 38-point Democratic lead in districts already held by Democratic members of Congress. In districts the Republican Party holds, by contrast, it’s a tight 45-51 percent Democratic vs. Republican contest. The Democrats’ lead in their districts, 64-26 percent, marks the extent of potential Democratic overvoting in areas where they’re already in control – which partly reflects a Democratic concentration in urban areas, and possibly also gerrymandering of district lines.”

Dems huge House haul worries GOP - Politico: “Is it time for Republicans to start freaking out? More than 40 House Republican incumbents were outraised in the final quarter of 2017 by one — or several — of their Democratic opponents, according to the latest round of fundraising numbers. And of that group, more than a dozen had less cash on hand than their Democratic challengers. For the GOP, here’s the really disturbing part: The trendline is getting worse, not better. Despite the myriad advantages of incumbency and control of Congress, there are more House members with less cash on hand than their Democratic challengers than the quarter before. … A flood of Democratic money poured into House races across the country in 2017, provided in large part by small-dollar, online contributors animated by opposition to President Donald Trump and the Republican majorities in Congress.”

Ryan’s PAC cuts fat checks for key races - Axios: “Speaker Paul Ryan’s PAC will make its largest one-time transfer of the year, giving $715,000 to 143 members of the GOP House Majority for their 2018 campaigns, an aide told Axios: Each of the 143 members will get $5,000 from the Speaker, who raised $44 million last year — a record for a House Speaker in an off-year. Over 140 GOP House chiefs are invited over to Team Ryan’s office this morning, where they can pick up the checks and enjoy coffee and bagels.”

Left coast - WaPo: “For those who think California politics is on the far-left fringe of the national spectrum, stand by. The next election season, already well underway here, will showcase a younger generation of Democrats that is more liberal and personally invested in standing up to President Trump’s Washington than those leaving office. Here in the self-labeled ‘state of resistance,’ the political debate is being pushed further left without any sign of a Republican renaissance to serve as a check on spending and social policy ambitions. Even some Republicans are concerned about the departure of Gov. Jerry Brown (D), who proved to be fiscally cautious after inheriting a state seven years ago in deep recession. The race to succeed him, as well as contests for U.S. Senate and statewide offices, probably will feature a November ballot exclusively filled with Democrats.”

WSJ: “Congress is expected this week to pass yet another short-term spending bill to avoid a government shutdown, prompting a bipartisan pair of senators to introduce a narrow bill on immigration aimed at ending the impasse that has hindered a two-year budget deal. The government’s current funding expires at 12:01 a.m. Friday. Immigration has become entangled in the spending negotiations since President Donald Trump last year ended an Obama-era program that protects young people who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children, known as Dreamers. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R., Ariz.) and Sen. Chris Coons (D., Del.) plan to unveil a proposal that offers a path to citizenship for Dreamers and orders a comprehensive study to determine what border-security measures are needed. But the bill stops well short of almost all of the president’s demands—including immediate funding for the wall along the southern border—and is likely to meet a chilly reception from conservative Republicans.”

Congress weighs one year extension for DREAMers - Politico: “Congress may just end up punting on its Dreamer dilemma. As lawmakers grasp for a solution for the young undocumented immigrants, one option is a temporary extension — perhaps one year — of their legal protections paired with a little bit of cash for border security. ‘That may be where we’re headed because, you know, Congress is pretty dysfunctional,’ said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), one of the few to publicly acknowledge the possibility of a temporary fix. ‘That’d be a real loss. But that’s probably where we’re headed, OK?’ Some senators are already deriding a yearlong patch as ‘misguided,’ a ‘Plan Z’ and a proposal that would keep immigrants ‘in fear.’ But lawmakers have only until March 5 to save the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program under President Donald Trump’s deadline.”

New push for Medicaid limits draws heavily on Clinton-era model - Atlantic: “Welfare reform is back. President Trump signaled its return to the forefront of national policy debates in his State of the Union address on Tuesday, when he announced a plan to ‘lift our citizens from welfare to work.’ He shouldn’t have trouble finding support for it: With a collective of pro-reform officials leading key agencies, and with longtime entitlement crusader Paul Ryan as speaker of the House, the GOP in 2018 will have its best chance in a generation to make major changes to the country’s safety-net programs, including Medicaid and food stamps. As a template, Republicans will use the original welfare-reform bill: the 1996 law that created the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, program, which changed the financing and benefit structure of cash assistance. For conservatives, the program has been a model of resounding success, with shrinking costs and a welfare caseload that decreases by the year.”


Politico: “Republican leaders are acknowledging that the FBI disclosed the political origins of a private dossier the bureau cited in an application to surveil former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, undermining a controversial GOP memo released Friday and fueling Democratic demands to declassify more information about the bureau’s actions. At issue is whether the federal probe into the Trump campaign’s Russia ties is infected with political bias, as Republicans say — or whether the GOP is using deceitful tactics to quash the probe, as Democrats insist. Democrats pounced on public comments over the past day by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and intelligence committee member Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), arguing that the GOP memo’s failure to mention a key footnote in the FBI application shows how the party has cherry-picked classified facts to protect President Donald Trump. To provide a fuller picture, intelligence committee Democrats insist, House Republicans must vote on Monday to release a classified 11-page rebuttal they wrote to the GOP memo.”

Report: Trump advisor Page hawked Kremlin contacts in 2013 - Time: “Former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page bragged that he was an adviser to the Kremlin in a letter obtained by TIME that raises new questions about the extent of Page’s contacts with the Russian government over the years. The letter, dated Aug. 25, 2013, was sent by Page to an academic press during a dispute over edits to an unpublished manuscript he had submitted for publication, according to an editor who worked with Page. ‘Over the past half year, I have had the privilege to serve as an informal advisor to the staff of the Kremlin in preparation for their Presidency of the G-20 Summit next month, where energy issues will be a prominent point on the agenda,’ the letter reads. Page is at the center of a controversial memo from Republican Congressman Devin Nunes, released this week. … At the heart of the debate is the question of who, exactly, is Carter Page. Trump’s defenders argue that he was simply a low-level consultant to the campaign…”

Lots of daylight between Trump and his party on memo - Reuters: “Several Republican lawmakers disagreed on Sunday with President Donald Trump’s assertion that a memo released last week by the House Intelligence Committee vindicated him in the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Tweeting from his resort in Palm Beach, Florida, on Saturday, Trump called Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of election interference a ‘witch hunt’ and a ‘disgrace’ and said the memo ‘totally vindicates’ him. But several Republican lawmakers played down the memo’s significance for Mueller’s probe, including Representative Trey Gowdy, a member of the intelligence committee and one of the authors of the four-page memo. Speaking on the CBS program ‘Face the Nation,’ Gowdy said he believed the Republican memo showed sloppiness by investigators in the handling of an application to the top secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court. But he said the Russia probe should continue regardless.”

Senate GOP pushes FBI to move against dossier author Steele - WashEx: “A newly released document from the Senate Judiciary Committee says Christopher Steele, the former British spy who compiled the Trump dossier, wrote an additional memo on the subject of Donald Trump and Russia that was not among those published by BuzzFeed in January 2017. The newly released document is an unclassified and heavily redacted version of the criminal referral targeting Steele filed on Jan. 4 by Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. It appears to confirm some level of coordination between the extended Clinton circle and the Obama administration in the effort to seek damaging information about then-candidate Trump. According to the referral, Steele wrote the additional memo based on anti-Trump information that originated with a foreign source. … Steele wrote a report based on the information, but the redacted version of the referral does not say what Steele did with the report after that.”

Ivanka and Rubio join forces on paid family leave entitlement Politico

Pence seems to be left out of Russia probe AP

Trump talks taxes during Ohio visit - Dayton Daily News

“…a little bit of sweet revenge” – Donald Trump Jr., one of the subjects of the criminal probe into Russian interference in the 2016, describing the memo from Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., from Fox News colleague Jesse Watters.

“It just tells me the FBI withholds pertinent information from a secret court in seeking to circumvent the rights given in the original 4th Amendment. Which begs the question, ‘Why even have a FISA court?’ Most of us suspected many of the top leadership of the FBI, CIA, etc. trample on our rights. No secrets here! I want to thank [Rep. Devin Nunes R-Calif.] for properly releasing this information in a manner that absolutely did not give up any ‘state secrets’. On the flip side, I believe all of the Senators and Representatives that want to cover up the FBI leadership’s abuse of the FISA court procedure to be properly and publicly rebuked. I guess [Nunes] is as close as we’re going to get to a patriotic Congressman.” – Dave George, Lorain, Ohio

[Ed. note: Well, I bet he wishes you lived in his district, Mr. George! I would caution you, though, that Nunes, who never himself saw the underlying classified information, is only leveling that charge. In fact House Speaker Paul Ryan and House Oversight Committee Trey Gowdy both said that nothing offered in Nunes’ charges undercuts the credibility of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. I would further suggest that political discussions constructed around state secrets are often misleading. It’s sort of like shadow boxing. My advice remains the same: we are expecting in the coming weeks a report from the Justice Department’s inspector general on the conduct of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s mishandling of classified information and the report from Mueller’s team. A little more patience is in order here so that we can make informed decisions based on provable facts.]

“In every ethical journalism, accounting, political class, this is inappropriate. This is the sentence I am referring to: ‘The bad guys are so bad and the system is so corrupt, sometimes you just have to throw an Afrikaner or two out of a skyscraper window.’ I find this very distastefully written, and also proliferating a scary mentality. I have fought to not resent Fox News, and today I lost. I cannot listen or read this content any longer. I don’t think you care about your moderate viewers, but you lost one more today.” – James Olson, Eau Claire, Wis.

[Ed. note: While we would always be sorry to see anyone go, Mr. Olson, I would encourage you to look at the context in which that line occurred. The paragraph begins with the phrase “the reductive reasoning:” and then lays out what Republicans who wink at dishonesty in this matter as both their entitlement and best defense. In the paragraph before we talked about Republicans who are “no longer troubled by untruths of either omission or commission.” The rationale we described is not offered as either politically effective or morally sound. We’re just telling you what some of the Republicans in Congress and across the country are thinking, which is helpful to know when we consider the strategies that all sides may take tin the closer chapter of this probe.] 

“Hi Chris. In your last Podcast with Dana you asked how many of your listeners were in foreign lands. I could not figure out how to send in a response directly to the Podcast so I thought I’d try this route. I live in Bangkok, Thailand and am a loyal listener to the podcast. I listen with a coffee and some cookies on my front porch every Saturday morning.  Even though the podcast is a couple of days old by then it is still insightful and fresh. Here in Thailand we are ruled by a military government that has outlawed politics and politicians. When politicians are outlawed, only outlaws will be politicians. Come to think of it…” – George Fuller, (hometown) St. Louis 

[Ed. note: Brilliant, Mr. Fuller! And only too true. And I must tell you it will add to my enjoyment when we record the podcast this week to picture the happy scene of you contentedly crunching cookies in the Bangkok morning sun. I hope you are able to also keep track of St. Louis Cardinals baseball. We are just one week and a day away from catchers and pitchers reporting for spring training and it’s going to be a wonderful season.]

Share your color commentary: Email us at 
HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.

Minneapolis Star Tribune: “For the first time since the Brainerd Jaycees $150,000 Ice Fishing Extravaganza was launched in 1991, a major investigation is underway to determine whether some of this year’s competing anglers, including the winner of a new pickup truck, deceived contest organizers. Contest officials confirmed this week that they are investigating whether three men from Ohio, a father, a son and another relative, legitimately caught the fish they say they did, earning first, third and 98th places among the 150 prize winners on Jan. 27. The men have told a lawyer for the group they caught the fish according to contest rules and are willing to take lie detector tests. Winning anglers who decline to take polygraph tests if asked must forfeit their prizes. The Brainerd Jaycees Ice Fishing Extravaganza is billed as the largest ice-fishing contest in the world.”

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.