10 things you need to know today: January 29, 2019

Whitaker says Mueller's investigation is nearly complete, Trump accepts Pelosi's invitation to deliver State of the Union, and more

1. Whitaker says Mueller's investigation is nearly complete

Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker said Monday that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is close to finishing his investigation into whether President Trump's campaign was involved with Russia's effort to interfere in the 2016 election. "I have been fully briefed on the investigation and I look forward to Director Mueller delivering the final report," Whitaker told reporters during an unrelated news conference. "I am comfortable that the decisions that were made are going to be reviewed ... Right now, the investigation is close to being completed." His comment is the first official indication that the nearly two-year inquiry is wrapping up. The remarks came days after Mueller's office unveiled an indictment against longtime Trump confidant Roger Stone, who was charged with false statements, obstruction, and witness tampering.

The Washington Post The Wall Street Journal

2. Trump accepts Pelosi's invitation to deliver State of the Union

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Monday invited President Trump to deliver his State of the Union address to Congress on Feb. 5. Trump promptly wrote back accepting the invitation. He called it a "great honor," and said, "We have a great story to tell and yet, great goals to achieve!" Trump's speech was originally scheduled to take place Tuesday, but Pelosi rescinded the invitation during the 35-day partial federal government shutdown, saying that for security reasons the event would have to wait until the government reopened. Trump considered delivering the address at another location before deciding to wait until the shutdown was over. The 35-day shutdown — the longest in U.S. history — ended Friday with a deal to fund the government through Feb. 15.

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USA Today The Washington Post

3. Polar vortex brings life-threatening cold to Midwest, Great Lakes

A dangerous polar vortex is sweeping into the Midwest and Great Lakes regions with potentially life-threatening low temperatures on Tuesday. Chicago is bracing for what could be a record low temperature around 29 degrees below zero. "If you don't have to be outside, don't," said National Weather Service meteorologist Amy Seeley. The blast of arctic air along with 30-mph wind gusts could bring the wind chill in the city to 50-below, which can cause frostbite within minutes. In some parts of the northern Plains, the wind chill could fall as low as 64 degrees below zero. Temperatures are expected to fall to 30-below in Minneapolis by early Wednesday for the first time since 1996.

Chicago Tribune Star Tribune

4. Guaido calls for more protests in Venezuela

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, who has declared himself the country's interim president, on Monday called for new street demonstrations to step up pressure on embattled socialist President Nicolas Maduro to step aside. Maduro has accused the U.S., which backs Guaido, of promoting a coup against him, but he also has sought to ease tensions by relaxing a demand for U.S. diplomats to leave the South American nation immediately. European nations are calling on Maduro to hold new elections, because of widespread claims that he won a second term that started in January through fraud. The U.S., Britain, and other allies are targeting the country's oil wealth and other assets to step up pressure on Maduro, who accused his enemies of waging "economic war" against Venezuela.


5. CBO: Shutdown cost the economy $11 billion

The 35-day government shutdown cost the American economy $11 billion, $3 billion of which will never be recovered, an analysis released Monday by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office revealed. The loss of work from federal employees, suspension of federal services, and decreased economic demand chiefly contributed to the slowdown, the report says. America's GDP took a 0.1 percent hit in the last quarter of 2018 due to the shutdown, and the impact will be a 0.2 percent loss in the first quarter of 2019, which will amount to an estimated overall loss of 0.02 percent of GDP throughout 2019. A separate CBO economic outlook report also found that, if taxation and spending remains unchanged, the federal deficit will grow to an annual total of $1 trillion in the next decade.


6. Aides say Trump 'hopping mad' over new White House book

Several current and former White House officials say President Trump is "very pissed off" and "really hopping mad" about a new tell-all book by a former aide that is being published Tuesday. The book, Team of Vipers: My 500 Extraordinary Days in the Trump White House, was written by Cliff Sims, who worked until last May as director of White House message strategy and as a special assistant to the president. Trump reportedly has belittled Sims over the account of chaos and infighting in the White House, asking aides, "Who is this guy? Why is he writing this book? He wasn't even in meetings." Trump reportedly has dismissively referred to Sims as "the videographer," because of his role helping with Trump's weekly video and radio addresses.


7. DOJ reveals Huawei charges; China objects

The Justice Department on Monday unveiled charges against Chinese telecom giant Huawei, some subsidiaries, and Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou for allegedly stealing trade secrets, obstructing justice, and dodging economic sanctions on Iran. The indictments say Huawei, its affiliate in Iran, and Meng played roles in defrauding four large banks by getting them to clear transactions with Iran that violated international sanctions. One of the banks was previously identified as HSBC, although the banks were not mentioned by name in the indictments. Meng, the daughter of Huawei's founder, was arrested last year in Canada at Washington's request, and faces possible extradition to the U.S. China accused the U.S. of using "state power to smear and crack down on targeted Chinese companies" in an effort to "kill" them.

The New York Times CNN

8. Deficit on track to return to $1 trillion in 2022

The federal government's annual deficit will reach $897 billion this fiscal year, an increase of 15 percent, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projected in a new report Monday. The deficit is expected to return to $1 trillion by 2022, a level it reached in 2009 through 2012. The return to the milestone had been projected for 2020, but it was delayed due to a significant reduction in spending on disasters like hurricanes. The main drivers of the shortfall remain unchanged — mandatory spending programs such as social security, as well as discretionary spending approved by Congress, and reduced revenues due to the GOP tax cut. The average projected deficit for 2020 through 2029 will be 4.4 percent of GDP, up from an average of 2.9 percent from 1969 to 2018.

CBO The Hill

9. Trump praises state lawmakers pushing for Bible literacy classes

President Trump on Monday praised lawmakers' efforts in six states to let public schools offer Bible literacy classes. "Numerous states introducing Bible Literacy classes, giving students the option of studying the Bible. Starting to make a turn back? Great!" Trump tweeted about a half-hour after the matter was discussed on Fox & Friends. On the Fox News morning show, North Dakota state Rep. Aaron McWilliams (R) talked about a measure he is co-sponsoring in the state legislature to support Bible literacy classes. There is similar legislation in Missouri, Indiana, West Virginia, and Florida, which are considering proposals to require or encourage schools to offer classes on the historical significance of the Bible as electives.

The Hill Vox

10. Judge postpones Manafort sentencing

A federal judge on Monday canceled Paul Manafort's sentencing for tax and bank fraud, which had been scheduled for Feb. 8. U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis III said he was postponing Manafort's sentencing until President Trump's former campaign chairman resolves a separate dispute with Special Counsel Robert Mueller's prosecutors, who say he lied to the FBI and a grand jury in violation of his cooperation agreement with Mueller. Manafort says he only made honest mistakes. Ellis said the resolution of that dispute "may have some effect on the sentencing decision in this case," so "it is prudent and appropriate to delay sentencing." U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson has scheduled a Feb. 4 closed-door hearing on the alleged lies.

Politico The Washington Post

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Harold Maass

Harold Maass is a contributing editor at TheWeek.com. He has been writing for The Week since the 2001 launch of the U.S. print edition. Harold has worked for a variety of news outlets, including The Miami Herald, Fox News, and ABC News. For several years, he wrote a daily round-up of financial news for The Week and Yahoo Finance. He lives in North Carolina with his wife and two sons.