January 7, 2019

The partial government shutdown over President Trump's proposed border wall hit 16 days on Sunday, making it the third longest shutdown on record, with no end in sight. Trump said Sunday that if Democrats don't agree to fund his wall of steel, he might declare a national emergency to build the wall without congressional approval.

And that's not the only way his administration is trying to work around the shutdown:

  • On Saturday, the Interior Department authorized the National Park Service to use entrance fees to pay for trash pickup and other operations at unsupervised or understaffed national parks. Congressional Democrats suggested that's probably illegal.

  • Museums and monuments are closed in Washington, D.C., but the Trump administration found money to staff the Old Post Office tower with National Park Service rangers. The federal General Services Administration owns the 120-year-old clock tower, attached to the Trump International Hotel.

  • On Friday, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) sent letters to 1,500 landlords to try and prevent the evictions of thousands of tenants in a HUD program that agency officials hadn't realized expired on Jan. 1, The Washington Post reports.

  • Agriculture Department officials, also caught off guard by the shutdown, are working to prevent 38 million Americans from losing access to food programs, though USDA could begin telling states this week to prepare for a lapse in federal funds.

  • The Internal Revenue Service is looking for ways to legally process tax refund checks, after saying in December it didn't have that authority during a shutdown.

House Democrats plan to pass separate appropriations bills to fund individual shuttered departments, starting with the Treasury, to highlight that Trump and Senate Republicans are the roadblock to reopening the government. "The impression you get from the president is that he would like to not only close government, build a wall, but also abolish Congress so the only voice that mattered was his own," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said on CBS News' Sunday Morning. Peter Weber

12:56 a.m.

President Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One on Thursday night that he is considering nominating Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) as director of national intelligence.

The director of national intelligence oversees the 17 agencies that make up the U.S. intelligence community. Since the resignation of Dan Coats in August, there has not been a permanent director of national intelligence; Joseph Maguire has served in an acting role since last year, but on Wednesday, Trump announced he will be replaced by U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell.

This is a position that requires Senate confirmation, and Collins is known for being one of Trump's most ardent defenders, a quality that was on display during the House impeachment inquiry. Collins announced earlier this year that he is running for Senate in Georgia against Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.), who was appointed by Gov. Brian Kemp (R) to fill the seat vacated by former Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson, who resigned due to health reasons.

Collins entering the race has caused infighting among Republicans, and if he is picked as director of national intelligence, he'll likely drop his Senate bid. Prior to becoming a congressman, Collins worked as a lawyer and served in the military as a chaplain. Catherine Garcia

12:00 a.m.

At Wednesday night's debate in Las Vegas, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) hammered former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg so hard, he tried to erase his beating with a Four Pinocchio ad that carefully edits one of his better lines into a "moment." Among the hits Bloomberg appeared totally unprepared for in the debate was Warren pressing him to release from their nondisclosure agreements the unknown number of women (and men) with whom he has reached confidential settlements. In a CNN town hall Thursday night, Warren circled back with some pro bono legal work.

"I used to teach contract law, and I thought I would make this easy," Warren told Erin Burnett and her town hall audience. She held up a contract she had written. "All that Mayor Bloomberg has to do is download it — I'll text it — sign it, and then the women, or men, will be free to speak and tell their own stories," Warren said, reading some relevant parts of the contract.

Warren also tweeted out the agreement.

Warren didn't tag Bloomberg in her tweet, though maybe she really did text him the contract. Legal work doesn't come cheap, especially from Harvard professors, but it's unlikely Bloomberg will appreciate the gesture. After all, spending money isn't really something he seems to worry about. Peter Weber

February 20, 2020

President Trump is still smarting over remarks Brad Pitt made nearly two weeks ago when he received an Academy Award for his performance in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

Trump held a rally in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on Thursday night, and spent a considerable amount of time complaining about this year's Oscars. "How bad were the Academy Awards?" he asked. He was mad that the widely praised South Korean film Parasite was named Best Picture, thinking the honor should have gone to an American movie like 1939's Gone With the Wind, and he shared his irritation with Pitt.

While accepting the Best Supporting Actor statue, Pitt said: "They told me I only have 45 seconds up here, which is 45 seconds more than the Senate gave John Bolton this week. I'm thinking maybe Quentin [Tarantino] does a movie about it. In the end, the adults do the right thing." He was referring to the Republican-controlled Senate voting against letting Bolton, Trump's former national security adviser, testify during Trump's impeachment trial.

Trump did not appreciate Pitt's comments, which were made as millions of people watched around the world. "I was never a big fan of his," Trump said. "He got up, said a little wise guy thing. He's a little wise guy." Catherine Garcia

February 20, 2020

Former CIA Director John Brennan is very disturbed by a new report from The New York Times, which says last week, members of the House Intelligence Committee were warned by an aide to Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire that Russia is actively meddling in the 2020 campaign in order to get President Trump re-elected.

"We are now in a full-blown national security crisis," Brennan said. "By trying to prevent the flow of intelligence to Congress, Trump is abetting a Russian covert operation to keep him in office for Moscow's interests, not America's." Brennan served as CIA director from 2013 to 2017.

The briefing was delivered by Shelby Pierson, one of Maguire's aides known for her blunt delivery, the Times reports. When Trump found out about the briefing, he was livid, and complained that the committee's chair, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), will "weaponize" the intelligence against him, a person with knowledge of the matter told the Times. On Wednesday, Trump announced Maguire is being replaced by U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, a Trump loyalist. Catherine Garcia

February 20, 2020

President Trump has apparently pivoted to Oscars punditry.

At his rally Thursday night in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Trump went after the Academy Awards, especially the academy's awards for Parasite. The acclaimed South Korean thriller made history earlier this month by becoming the first foreign-language film to ever win Best Picture, a feat that Trump, evidently, found worthy of ridicule.

"And the winner is, a movie from South Korea," Trump mockingly said. "What the hell was that all about? We got enough problems with South Korea with trade. On top of it, they give them the best movie of the year. Was it good? I don't know."

Trump didn't have a recommendation for what should have won instead of Parasite, among the most celebrated films released last year. But he went on to ask if we can "get Gone With the Wind back, please," either as a they-don't-make-them-like-they-used-to style complaint or a suggestion that the award for the best film of 2019 should have gone to a plantation drama released eight decades ago.

The American distributor of Parasite, which is in Korean with subtitles, was quick to fire back on Twitter, kicking off the Trump-Neon feud just weird enough to make perfect sense for 2020.

After this Parasite jab, what other strange movie opinions might Trump have to offer next? Well, he did reportedly screen Joker at the White House last year, so look out: a scalding hot presidential take on the DC film may be just around the corner. Brendan Morrow

February 20, 2020

After his longtime friend and former adviser Roger Stone was sentenced to 40 months in prison on Thursday, President Trump announced that he has "a very good chance of exoneration."

Stone was found guilty last year of lying to Congress and witness tampering, tied to his involvement with Russia's meddling in the 2016 presidential election. While attending an event in Las Vegas, Trump said he is "following this very closely, and I want to see it play out to its fullest, because Roger has a very good chance of exoneration, in my opinion."

Without sharing her name, Trump also said it is "my strong opinion that the forewoman for the jury is totally tainted." She was, he added, "an anti-Trump person, totally. I don't know if this is a fact, but she had a horrible social media account. She's, I guess from what I hear, a very strong woman, a very dominant person, so she can get people to do whatever she wants."

The forewoman disclosed during jury selection that in 2012, she ran for Congress as a Democrat. U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson said the jury acted with "integrity" and Stone was not prosecuted "for standing up for the president. He was prosecuted for covering up for the president." Catherine Garcia

February 20, 2020

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) let billionaire Sheldon Adelson know exactly how much he would pay under her proposed Ultra-Millionaire Tax by taking out a full-page ad in his newspaper and spelling it out for him.

The ad ran Thursday in Adelson's Las Vegas Review-Journal, just two days before the Nevada caucuses. Adelson, the CEO of Las Vegas Sands, is a major Republican donor and supporter of President Trump. The Nevada Independent's Jon Ralston tweeted a picture of the ad, which says Adelson has a net worth of $39.6 billion. During the first year of Warren's plan, he would pay $2,300,000,000, less than 6 percent of his wealth.

"Today, our economy is only working for a thinner and thinner slice at the top," the ad says. "That's why Elizabeth Warren has a plan for an Ultra-Millionaire Tax on the richest 75,000 Americans." As the ad is Nevada-specific, it says that the funds generated by this tax would make hundreds of thousands of Nevadans eligible to have their student debt canceled; make roughly 91,000 Nevada families eligible for free, quality child care; provide additional funding for public K-12 schools; and eliminate tuition and fees at Nevada's public universities, community colleges, and trade schools. Catherine Garcia

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