December 11, 2018

President Trump, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif), and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) bickered about border funding in an Oval Office meeting that turned supremely awkward. Even more awkward was the 15 times Trump interrupted Pelosi during the Tuesday meeting.

Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and the nation's top two Democrats met to discuss the looming government shutdown. Trump has said he won't sign the bill funding the government next year unless it includes $5 billion in funding for a border wall. Democrats have so far promised Trump only $1.6 billion.

Trump started the meeting with more than five minutes of uninterrupted spinning on the supposed benefits of a border wall. Yet just 20 seconds after he invited Pelosi to speak, Trump jumped in and questioned why she was calling this a "Trump shutdown." Another 10 seconds, another interruption. And the frequency only escalated from there, reaching 15 total interruptions.

The tension came to a head when Trump launched a few more rapid-fire interruptions, and finished by saying "it's not easy for [Pelosi] to talk right now." Pelosi calmly fired back: "Please don't characterize the strength that I bring to this meeting."

Meanwhile, when he asked Schumer to speak, Trump waited 40 seconds before talking over the senator. Schumer just interrupted Trump in return, and the two devolved into something just short of a shouting match. Pence, meanwhile, spent more than 16 minutes without saying a word. Kathryn Krawczyk

5:11 a.m.

President Trump gave approval Saturday for a deal in which China's ByteDance would partner with Oracle and Walmart to create a U.S. TikTok spinoff that would satisfy his security demands. ByteDance said Monday it wanted to clarify some "groundless rumors" about the deal, asserting that the Beijing company would control 80 percent of a wholly owned subsidiary, TikTok Global, after a public offering. Oracle would own a 12.5 percent stake and Walmart the other 7.5 percent.

U.S. backers of the deal argue that because U.S. investors own 41 percent of ByteDance, the 20 percent owned by Walmart and Oracle would give U.S. investors and companies a majority stake in the TikTok Global. Oracle and Walmart also said Americans would hold four of the five seats on the board of directors. ByteDance said Monday that one seat would go to Walmart CEO Doug McMillon but the other four would stay with current directors, including ByteDance founder Zhang Yiming.

Another "rumor" ByteDance sought to shoot down was Trump's assertion that the Chinese company would pay the U.S. $5 billion to create an education fund to teach American children "the real history of our country." ByteDance said the $5 billion figure was just an estimate of federal taxes it would pay over several years if its new subsidiary proved successful. Trump has said he wanted the buyers to pay the White House "key money" for facilitating the deal, but White House lawyers said that would violate the law.

ByteDance also said it will retain full control of TikTok's prized algorithms and source code, and Oracle can review the code for security threats but only in controlled locations. Trump's Aughst executive order giving ByteDance 90 days to sell to a U.S. company cited concerns that the personal data of Americans could be passed on to China's government. A senior Trump campaign official tells The Wall Street Journal that TikTok's Washington lobbyists had argued to Trump's campaign that banning a social media juggernaut with 100 million users, "including many who are of voting age and live in battleground states such as Florida," would be bad politics. Peter Weber

3:22 a.m.

There isn't really anything to agree or disagree with in a campaign ad Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden tweeted over the weekend, nothing to actually fight over. But it does win points for brevity, clocking in at 10 seconds, 5 of which is Biden saying he approves the message. The other 5 seconds is President Trump marveling that he might lose to Biden.

Trump also makes what Biden spins into a promise — and if so, it's not one Trump will keep. As The Week's Bonnie Kristian argued, you're (understandably) delusional if you think "that if Trump loses in November, he will, in some sense, go away." Peter Weber

2:21 a.m.

The White House said Sunday that President Trump will announce a Supreme Court nominee soon but will let Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) determine the calendar for a potential confirmation vote.

Trying to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died Friday, before the election or in the lame-duck session afterward would be a rushed process — and extremely contentious, especially given that McConnell blocked President Barack Obama's nominee in early 2016 on the grounds that voters should decide who gets to pick the nominee in an election year.

Two Republican senators, Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Susan Collins (Maine), have publicly opposed filing Ginsburg's seat before the next president is chosen, and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) — who chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2016 — suggested in August he would oppose holding hearings if a seat opened up before the election. Four Republicans have to oppose Trump's pick for the nomination to fail. But if McConnell waits until the lame-duck session, that number might fall to three, thanks to Arizona's Senate race.

Former astronaut Mark Kelly, the Democratic nominee, is leading Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) in most or all polls, and if he wins on Nov. 3, he could be sworn in by Nov. 30, NBC News reports. That's because this is actually a special election to fill the seat vacated when Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) died. McSally was sent to Congress by Gov. Doug Ducey (R-Ariz.), not the voters, and state law says the winner of the election will take office once the results are certified. It's possible Ducey or McConnell could try to slow the process if Kelly wins.

Ginsburg's dying wish was for the president inaugurated next January to pick her successor. "But the decision of when to nominate does not lie with her," Marc Short, chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, said Sunday. Peter Weber

2:09 a.m.

She's been running since age 9 and competed in Division I track and cross-country, but Sister Stephanie Baliga had never before experienced a marathon like this one.

When the Chicago Marathon was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, the 32-year-old nun decided she would still run the 26.2 miles, only it would be inside, on a treadmill in the basement of her church, the Mission of Our Lady of the Angels. Baliga spread the word that this solo marathon was going to be a fundraiser for the church's food bank, and a friend told her she should livestream the run so people could support her from afar.

At 4 a.m. on Aug. 23, Baliga started a Zoom call, and immediately, family, friends, and clergy members were cheering her on. Baliga told The Associated Press it "seems to have allowed people to have some encouragement and happiness and joy in this time of extreme difficulty for lots of people. I'm really humbled by the extraordinary support that so many people have shown me along this journey."

The last 30 minutes were rough, Baliga said, but a surprise appearance by her childhood hero, Olympic marathon runner and 2004 bronze medalist Deena Kastor, "distracted me from the pain." Baliga finished the treadmill marathon in three hours and 33 minutes, and raised more than $130,000 for the food bank. Catherine Garcia

1:17 a.m.

Forecasters expect the slow-moving Tropical Storm Beta to make landfall in Texas on Monday afternoon or evening.

As of late Sunday night, Beta was about 120 miles south of Galveston, moving west-northwest at 6 mph with winds clocking in at 60 mph. The storm is expected to hit southeast Texas, where it will hover for about 24 hours as it drops torrential rain, ABC News reports. Beta will weaken over the course of the week, and will likely enter the Mississippi Valley by Friday.

There are flash flood watches in effect for parts of Texas and Louisiana, and when the storm first hits, forecasters warn there could be storm surge of up to four feet. Catherine Garcia

12:40 a.m.

During several of his interviews with author Bob Woodward, President Trump proudly mentioned judicial appointments and how he and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have "broken every record," The Washington Post reports.

The Post obtained audio recordings of their conversations, and Woodward also writes about the topic in his new book, Rage. During an interview last December, Trump told Woodward, "You know what Mitch's biggest thing is in the whole world? His judges." McConnell, he continued, "will absolutely ask me, 'Please, let's get the judge approved instead of 10 ambassadors.'"

The Post notes that Trump would often get the numbers wrong, telling Woodward in March he signed his 220th judge and thought by the end of his first term he might be at "260, 270, maybe even 280, maybe even 300." As of this week, the Senate has confirmed 216 of his judges. In January, Trump boasted that "the only one that has a better percentage is George Washington, because he appointed 100 percent. But my percentage is, you know, like, ridiculous."

In May, Trump said the more than 100 court vacancies left by former President Barack Obama were "golden nuggets," not mentioning that those were open because McConnell made sure to block and delay Obama's nominees. Woodward quipped to Trump that "maybe they'll put a statue of you outside the Supreme Court," a suggestion that thrilled the president. "Oh, what a good idea," he responded. "I think I'll have it erected tomorrow. What a great idea. I think I'll use it. I won't say it came from me." Read more at The Washington Post. Catherine Garcia

12:31 a.m.

A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released Sunday showed Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden leading President Trump by 8 percentage points, 51 percent to 43 percent, among registered voters — the same margin the poll showed in February, before COVID-19, the economic swoon, the anti-racism protests following George Floyd's death, and all the other craziness of 2020.

"Simply put: In 2020, the fundamentals of our country have been shaken to our core, while the fundamentals of the election have not," said Democratic pollster Jeff Horwitt, who conducted the survey with Republican Bill McInturff. NBC's Chuck Todd made a smiler point on Sunday's Meet the Press.

But one thing has changed: money. Biden and the Democratic National Committee entered September with $466 million in the bank, a cash advantage of $141 million over Trump and the Republican National Committee's $325 million, The New York Times reported Sunday night, citing newly released campaign finance reports. In the spring, Trump and the RNC had a $187 million lead over Biden and the DNC.

In August alone, the joint Biden-DNC committee brought in a record $364.5 million while the Trump-RNC committee raised $210 million. The Biden campaign alone raised $212 million and spent $130.3 million; the Trump campaign raised $61.7 million, spent $61.2 million, and added about $900,000 in debt. "Money in the candidate's own committees, as opposed to the political party's account, is the most valuable of funds because election rules require those accounts to pay for certain types of spending, such as television ads," the Times reports.

Some Republicans are baffled at Trump's financial disadvantage, given that he and the RNC raised $1.3 billion since 2018. Trump's campaign says it invested heavily in a ground campaign it says Biden can never match.

The WSJ/NBC poll found a record 75 percent of voters rating their interest in the election a 10 out of 10, and more than 70 percent say the debates won't sway their decision much or at all. In another sign the electorate is pretty set, 38 percent said they won't vote for Biden under any circumstances versus 47 percent who said the same of Trump. The poll was conducted Sept. 13-16 among 1,000 voters, and its martin of error is ± 3.1 percentage points.

RealClearPolitics gives Biden a 6.5-point lead it its aggregate of polls; FiveThirtyEight gives Biden a 6.7-point lead and 77 percent odds to win the Electoral College. Peter Weber

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