Welcome to FOX News First. Not signed up yet? Click here.

Developing now, Thursday, Dec. 20, 2018

  • The Senate late Wednesday night passed a stopgap spending bill that averts a government shutdown, but does not provide new funding for President Trump's border wall. The measure will now head to the House
  • Some Trump supporters are voicing frustration over the president's perceived retreat from the border wall in the government shutdown standoff
  • President Trump announced the Wednesday that the U.S. is withdrawing all its remaining troops out of Syria, declaring victory over ISIS. One former senior adviser from the Trump and George W. Bush administrations tells FOX News why the president's decision should be celebrated
  • Former Attorney General Loretta Lynch testified before House lawmakers behind closed doors on Wednesday on Justice Department's handling of the Hillary Clinton email and Russia investigations
  • Vogue magazine is under fire for an article that attacks the White House Christmas portrait of President Trump and first lady Melania Trump

THE LEAD STORY – SHUTDOWN THREAT APPEARS OVER ... BUT NO PROGRESS ON TRUMP'S BORDER WALL: The Senate late Wednesday approved an interim spending bill that would keep several key departments of the federal government funded through February and avert a partial shutdown ... The legislation, which funds nine of 15 Cabinet-level departments and dozens of agencies, was passed by voice vote. It now heads to the House.

It is not clear whether President Trump will sign the bill if the House approves it since the measure does not provide any new funding for his long-promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. However, the White House signaled Tuesday that Trump did not want to drive a government shutdown over the issue, though the president said he'd be "proud" to do so just last week. - Reported by Samuel Chamberlain

FRUSTRATION OVER 'GUTLESS' RETREAT FROM BORDER WALL: Just over a week after President Trump forcefully suggested he'd risk a government shutdown to secure border wall funding, the White House is now signaling a retreat -- and top conservative commentators and politicians are declaring that the president's "gutless" move has not only broken a campaign promise, but also undermined his credibility as a dealmaker ... "Trump will just have been a joke presidency who scammed the American people, amused the populists for a while, but he’ll have no legacy whatsoever" if he yields on the issue, columnist Ann Coulter told the Daily Caller in a podcast.

And House Freedom Caucus Chair Mark Meadows, R-N.C., told FOX News late Wednesday that "the political fallout will start" soon and that Trump risks doing “major damage” to his re-election effort in 2020. When asked if the president should veto any stopgap funding bill that does not include money for the border wall, Meadows replied “yes.” He added that the "mistake" Republicans had made was that "we didn’t bring up the bill last week when we had the votes." - Reported by Gregg Re

DEBATING TRUMP'S WITHDRAWAL FROM SYRIA: President Trump surprised observers Wednesday with his decision to pull all 2,000 U.S. troops out of Syria and declaration of victory over ISIS ... "We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump presidency," he said. U.S. officials said many details of the troop withdrawal had not yet been finalized, but they expect American forces to be out by mid-January.

Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Bob Corker, R-Tenn., blasted the decision and compared it to former President Barack Obama's decision to withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq in 2011. But Christian Whiton, a former senior adviser in the Donald Trump and George W. Bush administrations, believes Trump made the right move.

In an op-ed on FoxNews.com, Whiton writes the following: "President Trump’s order Wednesday to remove all 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria should be seen and celebrated for what it is: a great victory over the ISIS terrorist group and the fulfillment of his pledge not to do nation-building."

LYNCH ON THE HOT SEAT: Former Obama Attorney General Loretta Lynch appeared on Capitol Hill on Wednesday for closed-door testimony to answer questions on the Justice Department's Russia and Hillary Clinton email probes, following former FBI director James Comey’s feisty back-to-back interviews with the same committees ... Lynch came under fire in 2016 after her infamous tarmac meeting with former President Bill Clinton days before the FBI decided it would not recommend criminal charges against Hillary Clinton for her handling of classified information on her private email server.

Democrats on the committee – as they did with Comey – lamented Wednesday that the hearing was a waste of time. U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., told reporters he did not learn anything new from the questioning of Lynch. Raskin said he noticed some people sleeping in the room during the testimony. - Reported by Alex Pappas

MEDIA GRINCHES ATTACK MELANIA - AGAIN: When it comes to Christmas, first lady Melania Trump simply can't do anything right in the eyes of the mainstream media ... Only a few weeks after her Christmas décor was vilified, several "art experts" at struggling Vogue ganged up on the White House Christmas portrait in an article posted on Vogue’s website that says the image “feels so strangely off.” The magazine’s piece, which ran without a byline, is headlined, “What’s Up With This Year’s Surreal White House Christmas Portrait?” It accuses “FLOTUS and POTUS of looking almost like cardboard cutout versions of themselves” and declared they shouldn’t be smiling amid negative news that is currently in the headlines. - Reported by Brian Flood


FLYNN JUDGE WENT OVERBOARD - "The reference to treason was totally inappropriate ... The judge decided he couldn't restrain himself, and part of being a judge, as I recall it, is restraining yourself. ... The judge was convinced that there was something going on that he didn't know about, and that's not his business." – Former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey, on "America's Newsroom," sounding off on the conduct by U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan at the sentencing hearing of former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. WATCH

Howard Kurtz: Facebook under fire for peddling your private messages – and isn't sorry.
Donald Trump Jr. has message for Ocasio-Cortez after she bashed Politico article.

Fed hikes interest rates for fourth time this year, despite Trump pressure.
Stock indexes rocked by Federal Reserve rate hike.
Trump tariff war with China sends U.S. retailers on buying binge.
Dow, S&P 500 having worst month since 1931 as Grinch hits Wall Street.
George Lucas leads Forbes wealthiest celebrities of 2018.
Tokyo court won't extend Ghosn's detention, may release soon.
Chick-fil-A poised to jump Subway, Burger King in US fast food market.


On FOX News:
FOX & Friends, 6 a.m. ET: U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., reacts to Loretta Lynch's testimony and the battle over Trump's border wall. Pastor Greg Laurie on the importance of the Christmas season. Steve Doocy presents the grand prize winner of "Dining with Doocy."

Your World with Neil Cavuto, 4 p.m. ET: Special guests include: Lindsey Bell, investment strategist at CFRA Research; Melissa Armo, founder of the Stock Swoosh.

Special Report with Bret Baier, 6 p.m. ET: An exclusive interview with outgoing U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

The Story with Martha MacCallum, 7 p.m. ET: Don't miss Martha MacCallum's must-see exclusive interview with U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.

On FOX Business:

Mornings with Maria, 6 a.m. ET: Special guests include: U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue; Dave Ricks, CEO of Eli Lilly; U.S. Rep.-elect Michael Waltz, R-Fla.; Mark Yusko, CEO and chief investment officer of Morgan Creek Capital Management; Alan Patricof, co-founder and managing partner of Greycroft

Varney & Co., 9 a.m. ET: Special guests include: U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wis.; Mike Huckabee, former Arkansas governor; Michael O'Keefe, chief investment officer of Stifel.

Cavuto: Coast to Coast, Noon ET: Bob Doll, senior portfolio manager and chief equity strategist at Nuveen Asset Management.

Countdown to the Closing Bell with Liz Claman, 3 p.m. ET: Brian Gardner, director of Washington Research at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods; Tim Draper, Draper Associates founding partner.

On FOX News Radio:

The FOX News Rundown podcast: President Trump wants the approximately 2,000 U.S. troops currently stationed in Syria to return home. FOX News' Lucas Tomlinson has the latest from the Pentagon and Harry J. Kazianis, director of Defense Studies at the Center for National Interest, weighs in. Plus, while most pundits focus on the U.S.-Mexico border, Washington is quietly enhancing security along the border with Canada. FOX News' Molly Line has been following the story from Derby Line, Vt. And commentary by FOX News senior judicial analyst, Judge Andrew Napolitano.

Want the FOX News Rundown sent straight to your mobile device? Subscribe through Apple Podcasts, Google Play, and Stitcher.

The Brian Kilmeade Show, 9 a.m. ET: Trump's decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, the shutdown standoff, the latest in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation and ObamaCare will be the topics of the debate with U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La.; Gen. Jack Keane; U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif.; and "FOX News Sunday" host Chris Wallace.

The Todd Starnes Show, Noon ET: U.S. Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., and U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz. discuss the latest developments in the government shutdown standoff and the battle over President Trump's border wall.

The Tom Shillue Show, 3 p.m. ET: Democratic strategist Jessica Tarlov joins Tom Shillue to discuss President Trump's latest legal problems. Plus, theater critic Michael Riedel previews the upcoming award season.


2005: A federal judge rules that "intelligent design" could not be mentioned in biology classes in a Pennsylvania public school district, delivering a stinging attack on the Dover Area School Board.

1999: The Vermont Supreme Court rules that homosexual couples are entitled to the same benefits and protections as wedded couples of the opposite sex.

1989: The United States launches Operation Just Cause, sending troops into Panama to topple the government of Gen. Manuel Noriega.

FOX News First is compiled by FOX News' Bryan Robinson. Thank you for joining us! Enjoy your day! We'll see you in your inbox first thing Friday morning.