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By Alex Moe, Rebecca Shabad and Marianna Sotomayor
WASHINGTON — House Democrats announced a plan Monday to vote on re-open the federal government when they take control of the chamber on Thursday.
“Democrats are taking action to lead our country out of this mess. This legislation reopens government services, ensures workers get the paychecks they’ve earned and restores certainty to the lives of the American people,” said Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., in a joint statement.
Democrats, who outlined the plan as the shutdown stretched into Day 10, unveiled a short-term funding bill known as a continuing resolution that would fund the Department of Homeland Security until Feb. 8. Separately, they plan to pass six remaining government spending bills that passes new funding for those other agencies for the rest of the fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.
The incoming chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee, Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., officially filed the legislation on Monday.
Democrats will assume the majority in the House on Thursday. The first vote will be to elect a new speaker of the House; later in the day, they will vote on their appropriations plan.
The move is unlikely to be successful. There is no guarantee that Senate Republicans, who control that chamber, would agree to take up any measure passed by the Democratic House, or that President Donald Trump — who has been demanding funding for a border wall — would support the effort.
“It’s simple: The Senate is not going to send something to the President that he won’t sign,” said Don Stewart, a spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
McConnell has said that negotiations between House and Senate would still need to happen in order to re-open the government.
“In order to get us out of this mess, a negotiated solution will need to check these boxes. It’s really simple. It will need the support of 60 senators — which will obviously include a number of Democrats. It will need to pass the House. And it will need a presidential signature,” McConnell said recently on the floor. “That’s how we make a law in this situation. Sixty votes in the Senate, a majority in the House, and President Trump’s signature. That’s what’s needed.”
Before the shutdown, the Senate did pass a so-called “clean” funding measure that excluded spending for the wall.
Pelosi and Schumer noted that prior vote in their statement Monday.
“It would be the height of irresponsibility and political cynicism for Senate Republicans to now reject the same legislation they have already supported,” they said. “Once the Senate passes this legislation and puts us on a path to reopening government, the President must come to his senses and immediately sign it into law.”
President Trump on Monday highlighted his insistence on funding for his border wall. “Democrats, come back from vacation now and give us the votes necessary for Border Security, including the Wall,” he tweeted in the morning, ahead of the Democrats’ announcement.
“I’m here, ready to go,” he told Fox News later Monday. “It’s very important. A lot of people are looking to eat their paycheck, so I’m ready to go anytime they want. We are not giving up. We have to have border security, and the wall is a big part of border security. The biggest part.”
Emails reveal Trump official consulted climate change deniers
WASHINGTON — A Trump administration national security official has sought help from advisers to a think tank that disavows climate change to challenge widely accepted scientific findings on global warming, according to his emails.
The request from William Happer, a member of the National Security Council, is included in emails from 2018 and 2019 that were obtained by the Environmental Defense Fund under the federal Freedom of Information Act and provided to The Associated Press. That request was made this past March to policy advisers with the Heartland Institute, one of the most vocal challengers of mainstream scientific findings that emissions from burning coal, oil and gas are damaging the Earth’s atmosphere.
In a March 3 email exchange Happer and Heartland adviser Hal Doiron discuss Happer’s scientific arguments in a paper attempting to knock down climate change as well as ideas to make the work “more useful to a wider readership.” Happer writes he had already discussed the work with another Heartland adviser, Thomas Wysmuller.
Academic experts denounced the administration official’s continued involvement with groups and scientists who reject what numerous federal agencies say is the fact of climate change.
“These people are endangering all of us by promoting anti-science in service of fossil fuel interests over the American interests,” said Pennsylvania State University climate scientist Michael Mann.
“It’s the equivalent to formulating anti-terrorism policy by consulting with groups that deny terrorism exists,” said Northeastern University’s Matthew Nisbet, a professor of environmental communication and public policy.
The National Security Council declined to make Happer available to discuss the emails.
The AP and others reported earlier this year that Happer was coordinating a proposed White House panel to challenge the findings from scientists in and out of government that carbon emissions are altering the Earth’s atmosphere and climate.
President Donald Trump in November rejected the warnings of a national climate change assessment by more than a dozen government agencies.
“I don’t believe it,” he said.
Happer, a physicist who previously taught at Princeton University, has claimed that carbon dioxide, the main heat-trapping gas from the burning of coal, oil and gas, is good for humans and that carbon emissions have been demonized like “the poor Jews under Hitler.” Trump appointed him in late 2018 to the National Security Council, which advises the president on security and foreign policy issues.
The emails show Happer expressing surprise that NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, a former Oklahoma congressman who once questioned mainstream climate science, has come round to accepting that science.
A May 2018 email exchange between Heartland’s Wysmuller and Happer calls the NASA chief’s change of heart on climate science “a puzzle.” The exchange calls scientifically established rises in sea levels and temperatures under climate change “part of the nonsense” and urges the NASA head — copied in — to “systematically sidestep it.”
Happer at the time was not yet a security adviser, although he had advised the Trump Environmental Protection Agency on climate change.
A NASA spokesman on Thursday upheld the space agency’s public statements on climate change.
“We provide the data that informs policy makers around the world,” spokesman Bob Jacobs said. “Our science information continues to be published publicly as it always has.”
But spokesman Jim Lakeley at the Heartland Institute defended the effort, saying in an email that NASA’s public characterization of climate change as manmade and a global threat “is a disservice to taxpayers and science that it is still pushed by NASA.”
After joining the agency, Happer sent a February 2019 email to NASA deputy administrator James Morhard relaying a complaint from an unidentified rejecter of man-made climate change about NASA’s website.
“I’m concerned that many children are being indoctrinated by this bad science,” said the email that Happer relayed.
Happer’s own message was redacted from the records obtained by the environmental group.
Two major U.S. science organizations took issue with Happer’s emails.
“We have concerns that there appear to be attempts by a member of the National Security Council to influence and interfere with the ability of NASA, a federal science agency, to communicate accurately about research findings on climate science,” said Rush Holt, chief executive officer of the American Association for the Advance of Science, the world’s largest general scientific society.
There have been hundreds of scientific assessments by leading researchers and institutions the last few decades that look at all the evidence and have been “extremely credible and routinely withstand intense scrutiny,” said Keith Seitter, executive director of the American Meteorological Society. “Efforts to dismiss or discredit these rigorous scientific assessments in public venues does an incredible disservice to the public.”
How Trump built the outrage wheel
WASHINGTON — Sunday marks the fourth anniversary of Donald Trump descending that escalator and stunning the political world by saying that Mexico sends rapists across the border.
And it’s been pretty much the central theme of his four years on the political stage: Say/do something controversial … Country reacts in outrage … Say/do another thing … Country reacts in outage, forgetting that first controversy.
Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
Consider last week’s dispute: Trump’s “Blazing Saddles” move on Mexico tariffs (“Nobody move … or the United States gets it”).
This week ends with another outrage: Trump admitting that he’d accept dirt — again — from a foreign government.
This controversy-to-controversy-to-controversy cycle has been one of the president’s biggest weaknesses.
It’s why, after all, his approval rating is stuck in the low 40’s when the unemployment rate is at 3.6 percent.
But it’s also one his strengths: The controversy/outrage always changes, and it becomes easy to forget what last week’s controversy/outrage was.
The political world still doesn’t know how to handle this wheel of outrage.
And Democrats don’t know, either…
The Mueller report plays out over the last 48 hours
If you want to retell what’s in the Mueller report, all you need to do is interview the president of the United States.
So first came President Trump’s admission to ABC that he’d accept dirt from a foreign government again, underscoring the report’s Volume I about Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and how the Trump campaign welcomed that help.
And now in the latest installment of ABC’s interview with Trump, the president said he was never going to fire Robert Mueller – the subject matter that’s in Volume II of the report on whether there was obstruction of justice.
But you have to read the entire exchange:
Trump: “No special counsel should have ever been appointed. You know why? ‘Cause there was no crime. They had no– [cross talk] excuse me, they had no evidence of crime.”
Stephanopoulos: “He lays out a lot of evidence, including the episode where your White House Counsel Don McGahn, you tell him, ‘Mueller has to go.’ You call him twice and say, ‘Mueller has to go. Call me when it’s done.’”
Trump: “Okay, now the story on that very simply: number one, I was never gonna fire Mueller. I never suggested firing Mueller.”
Stephanopoulos: “That’s not what he says.”
Trump: “I don’t care what he says. It doesn’t matter. That was to show everyone what a good counsel he was.”
Stephanopoulos: “Why would Don McGahn lie — why would he lie under oath — why would he lie under oath to Robert Mueller?”
Trump: “Because he wanted to make himself look like a good lawyer. Or, or he believed it because I would constantly tell anybody that would listen, including you, including the media, that Robert Mueller was conflicted. Robert Mueller had a total conflict of interest.”
Stephanopoulos: “He has to go.”
Trump: “I never — I didn’t say that.”
After reading that, is there any doubt that the best advice Trump ever got was to avoid a sitdown interview with Mueller?
Biden pledges not to accept foreign interference
Yesterday we asked how Democrats would respond to Trump’s admission that he’d be willing to use foreign interference again.
Play by the rules and possibly lose? Or play the same game your opponent is playing?
Well, Joe Biden released his answer in a new video, per NBC’s Mike Memoli.
“Folks, this is simple. American elections should be decided by the American people and not by Russian or any other foreign power,” Biden says.
“I won’t be part of any attempt to undermine our democracy or public confidence in our institutions.”
Tweet of the day
2020 Vision: The debate field is set
The Democratic National Committee on Thursday named the 20 participants who qualified for the first Dem debates on June 26-27. In alphabetical order:
Michael Bennet, Joe Biden, Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, Julian Castro, Bill de Blasio, John Delaney, Tulsi Gabbard, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, John Hickenlooper, Jay Inslee, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O’Rourke, Tim Ryan, Bernie Sanders, Eric Swalwell, Elizabeth Warren, Marianne Williamson, and Andrew Yang.
Two elected Democratic politicians didn’t make the cut: Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass.
“If I had to choose between chasing 100,000 donors or getting healthcare for 100,000 Montanans — well, that’s the easiest decision I’ll ever have to make,” Bullock responded in a statement, referring to his late entry into the 2020 field due to expanding Medicaid in his state.
“While 20 candidates are on the debate stage in Miami, I will be talking directly to voters about my record of passing progressive priorities in a state Trump won, the importance of winning the places we lost, and how we are going to beat Donald Trump once and for all.”
On the campaign trail today
Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand and Andrew Yang stump in New Hampshire… Beto O’Rourke is in South Carolina… Kamala Harris campaigns in Nevada… Julian Castro visits Iowa… And Pete Buttigieg holds a grassroots event in Alexandria, Va.
Data Download: The number of the day is … 94
That’s the number of days between Sarah Sanders’ final formal press briefing (on March 11) and yesterday’s announcement that she will be leaving the White House.
The March 11 briefing was only the second such formal Q&A session of 2019.
The 94-day gap nearly doubles the previous longest stretch without a White House briefing during the Trump administration. The previous record was 42 days, between the January 28 and March 11 briefings.
The Lid: Say cheese
Don’t miss the pod from yesterday, when special guest star Alex Seitz-Wald described why the 2020 candidates are spending so much time on … selfies?
ICYMI: News clips you shouldn’t miss
In an exit interview, Sarah Sanders told NBC News that she has no regrets about her tenure at the White House.
Can a candidate matter even WITHOUT a debate spot?
POLITICO notes how 2020 Democrats are taking trips to red states to talk about electability.
Progressive Dem Betsy Sweet is in the race to take on Susan Collins.
Trump agenda: Tough spot
The conflict in the Gulf puts Trump in a difficult position on Iran, the New York Times writes.
Nancy Pelosi weighed in on Trump’s comments about election interference.
Here’s how Mexico is trying to reinforce its southern border.
2020: Firing up the flux capacitor
NBC’s Jonathan Allen writes that Biden’s “Back to the Future” pitch is also his biggest vulnerability.
Anita Hill says she’d be open to voting for Joe Biden.
John Hickenlooper isn’t backing down on his attacks on Bernie Sanders and socialism.
In a FOX News town hall, Julian Castro took on the network’s focus on Hillary Clinton.
NBC’s Jordan Jackson reports on Kamala Harris’s newest grassroots backers in South Carolina.
Tulsi Gabbard is doubling down on her pitch against “neocon war hawks.”
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