January 11, 2019

Friday is Day 21 of the partial government shutdown stalemated over President Trump's spurned demand for $5.7 billion for a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico. This gives Trump the dubious distinction of overseeing the longest partial shutdown in U.S. history, tied with a 21-day shutdown during President Bill Clinton's administration. Clinton was widely seen as having won that standoff against House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), which ended on Jan. 6, 1996. But it caused enough damage that no White House or Congress has repeated the feat since. With talks deadlocked, it appears Trump will have the record all to himself by Saturday.

Some 800,000 federal employees are working without pay — including Secret Service agents — or furloughed, like most of the White House staff. Trump is taking the brunt of the blame for the shutdown, polls show, but "lengthy shutdowns can be disastrous for the White House for other reasons," notes Katie Rogers at The New York Times:

The last time a shutdown went on for this long, President Bill Clinton put himself on the long road to impeachment when he approached a young intern named Monica Lewinsky in an empty corner of the West Wing. Nonessential employees had been sent home, unpaid interns were brought in to work, and the rest is bitter history. The Obama administration barred interns from coming to work during a shutdown, and the Trump White House's new class of interns has not yet started, according to a senior official. [The New York Times]

Not allowing interns in during the shutdown would be "a smart move," Leon Panetta, Clinton's chief of staff during the shutdown, told the Times. Peter Weber

2:29 p.m.

The Senate on Sunday voted to advance Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett toward final confirmation.

The final count was 51-48, with Democrats unanimously voting in opposition, and Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) crossing the aisle to join them. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), the Democratic vice presidential nominee, was not present for the vote. Both Collins and Murkowski, like their Democratic colleagues, have said they believe Barrett's nomination was too close to the Nov. 3 election to move forward, although Murkowski said Saturday that she will now back the judge's confirmation after losing the "procedural fight." Collins is expected to stick with the Democrats going forward, but Barrett should still be confirmed without much drama.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who has faced criticism from Democrats for expediting the confirmation process after blocking former President Obama's nominee in 2016 because it was an election year, called Barrett one of the most "impressive" nominees for public office "in a generation," adding that the "heated" debate around confirmation "curiously" lacked talk of her "actual credentials or qualifications." Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), meanwhile, said the vote was a "sham."

Sunday's vote allows for 30 hours of debate, setting up a final tally on Monday evening around 7 p.m. ET. Read more at The Associated Press. Tim O'Donnell

1:50 p.m.

Vice President Mike Pence will continue to travel and campaign for re-election despite the fact that several close contacts — including his chief of staff, Marc Short, and an unnamed personal aide who accompanies him throughout the day — have tested positive for the coronavirus at various points throughout the week. Pence did test negative for COVID-19 on Sunday morning, but the decision to maintain his schedule has raised eyebrows among both the Trump administration's critics, as well as allies like former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), who recently recovered from his own bout with the virus.

Former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, meanwhile, said that while the short answer is yes, Pence could be putting others at risk by foregoing quarantine, he did say there are ways to handle the situation safely. "I would understand why they wouldn't want to quarantine the vice president," Gottlieb said. "But they need to be very explicit about what they're doing and the risks that they're taking."

Gottlieb said Pence should be wearing an N-95 mask, distancing whenever possible, and getting tested repeatedly. Finally, he suggested the vice president's medical team could at least consider providing him with antibody drugs that are not available to the general public as a preventative method, though that would come with some risk. Tim O'Donnell

12:59 p.m.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) told CNN's Jake Tapper on Sunday's edition of State of the Union that she feels strongly about the need to ban fracking in the United States, but she's not letting that get in the way of her efforts to help former Vice President Joe Biden defeat President Trump in the upcoming election.

Biden, she said, has "made very clear" that he disagrees with a fracking ban, but she says it would be a "privilege" to lobby him on the issue in the future. However, "we need to focus on winning the White House first," she told Tapper.

Ocasio-Cortez has emerged as one of the most prominent voices in the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, and she certainly has policy disagreements with the more moderate Democratic nominee. Indeed, earlier in the year, when she first threw her support behind Biden's candidacy after he secured the nomination over Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Ocasio-Cortez said "the whole process of coming together should be uncomfortable for everyone involved." But her latest comments reaffirm that she prefers that uncomfortable process continue over the next four years. Tim O'Donnell

11:41 a.m.

President Trump has stirred up controversy by giving some evasive answers on what he'll do if he fails to win re-election on Nov. 3 (or whenever the presidential race is called). The president has said he will accept a peaceful transition of power, but he continues to suggest the election may not be "honest" or "clean" with a particular focus on the mail-in voting process, which he believes is vulnerable to fraud.

Regardless, the majority of his supporters are prepared to accept the election results no matter who wins, a new Reuters/Ipsos poll revealed Sunday. In the survey, 59 percent of those who are backing Trump said they'll accept a win from his Democratic competitor, former Vice President Joe Biden, and the data is pretty much the same on the other side of things, where 57 percent of Biden supporters said they'd accept a Trump victory.

That does theoretically leave a significant amount of people who would refuse to accept the results, but not all of those folks would take action to challenge the outcome. Among Trump backers, 16 percent said they would try to do something about a Biden victory, while 22 percent of Biden voters said they'd make an effort to dispute a Trump win.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted online between Oct. 13-20. It gathered responses from 2,649 American adults. The margin of error was 4 percentage points. Read more at Reuters. Tim O'Donnell

11:13 a.m.

Josh Holmes, a top adviser to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), told Politico he thinks the Republican Party could win more Senate races than people expect on Nov. 3, but the fact that there are so many close races means "you could have a whole bunch of scenarios play out on Election Day." The worst-case scenario for the GOP, he said, is "potentially catastrophic."

As it turns out, the party may not get that much help from President Trump when it comes to avoiding such a fate. Trump privately told donors this past Thursday at a fundraiser in Nashville, Tennessee, that he isn't sure the party will maintain its Senate majority, The Washington Post reports. "I think the Senate is tough actually," Trump said at the event, an attendee told the Post on condition of anonymity. "The Senate is very tough. There are a couple senators I can't really get involved in. I just can't do it. You lose your soul if you do. I can't help some of them. I don't want to help some of them."

Instead, the president reportedly said he believes the GOP will "take back the House," a stance that he made clear during Thursday's presidential debate, as well. Trump's optimism isn't shared by many Republican officials and strategists, who consider it a long shot. Read more at Politico and The Washington Post. Tim O'Donnell

8:25 a.m.

Saturday Night Live once again tackled the presidential debates during the show's latest cold open, parodying the most recent and final showdown between President Trump and the Democratic nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden, who were, as usual, portrayed by Alec Baldwin and Jim Carrey, respectively. Maya Rudolph returned to the stage as well, this time portraying the debate's moderator, NBC News' Kristen Welker, who was armed with a mute button, a shot glass, and a "Biden Bingo" board.

As was the case in reality, the SNL version was relatively tame, at least compared to the previous debate. The most chaotic moment during the skit occurred when Kate McKinnon showed up as Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani to accuse Biden's son, Hunter, of corruption. But Carrey's Biden, after a strenuous inner monologue, opted not to retaliate, and the debate resumed as planned. Watch the full sketch below. Tim O'Donnell

7:53 a.m.

Vice President Mike Pence's chief of staff Marc Short tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday, Pence spokesman Devin O'Malley confirmed, adding that Pence and second lady Karen Pence both tested negative for the coronavirus.

The vice president is considered a close contact of Short, but O'Malley said he won't go into quarantine and will "maintain his schedule in accordance with the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidelines for essential personnel."

It appears there is a larger outbreak in Pence's circle, although O'Malley only formally acknowledged Short's diagnosis, and two people briefed on the matter told The New York Times that White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows tried to keep the news from reaching the public. But another source reportedly told the Times that three additional Pence staffers tested positive for the virus, while Bloomberg reports that Marty Obst, a Pence adviser, also recently tested positive. Per Bloomberg, both Obst and Short are experiencing minor COVID-19 symptoms. Read more at The New York Times and Bloomberg. Tim O'Donnell

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