Capital Journal: Border Wall Standoff Goes Prime Time; Rosenstein to Step Down; Syria Strategy Upended

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What We’re Watching

Trump: As the partial government shutdown continues, President Trump and Vice President Pence meet with GOP senators on Capitol Hill. Mr. Trump meets with Congressional leaders later at the White House.

Congress: House Democrats are expected to propose the first in a series of bills to reopen the government. The Senate is unlikely to take up the bills.

Federal Reserve: The Fed releases the minutes of its December meeting, providing more detail about how it viewed the risks to economic growth.

Developing Story: Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who has overseen special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, is expected to leave the Justice Department.

Government Shutdown

President Trump said a southern border wall “is absolutely critical to border security,” in his first televised address from the Oval Office. He emphasized what he said was support for wall funding from law-enforcement officials, who he said requested the more than $ 5 billion for the barrier, Rebecca Ballhaus, Kristina Peterson and Michael C. Bender report.

Lawmakers have been unable to reach an agreement with Mr. Trump over bills to fund nine federal agencies. Democrats have rejected Mr. Trump’s demand for $ 5.7 billion to build a border wall.

In the televised Democratic response, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer rejected the idea that a wall is necessary and accused Mr. Trump of stoking fear to rally support the wall. They urged him to reopen the government while the debate continues.

Diverging views between Democrats and Republicans on the extent of the problem associated with undocumented immigrantsand how to address the issue are at the center of the debate over border-wall funding. Here is a look at some of key numbers behind U.S. immigration.

Capital Journal Readers: Is the partial government shutdown affecting you? Tell us your story.

Inside Look
Political Intelligence

Shutdown Standoff: Lots of Activity, Little Progress

By Andrew Duehren

President Trump’s much awaited televised address on what he calls a “humanitarian crisis” on the southern border with Mexico did not include a declaration of a national emergency, a possibility that had been discussed throughout Washington on Tuesday.

In fact, neither Mr. Trump’s speech nor the Democratic response from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on prime-time television offered anything new to the debate over border security and the partial government shutdown. Each side largely reiterated their position, doing little to change the contours of the deadlock.

But the anticipation of a possible national-emergency declaration nevertheless consumed much of the day in Washington, placing control of the terms of the day’s news cycle in Mr. Trump’s hands. Some Republicans hold that declaring a national emergency could allow the president to build the wall without Congressional approval, while Democrats argue that such a move would be outside the bounds of the law.

Much has been made of Mr. Trump’s ability to direct media attention, and he has repeatedly sought to grab headlines throughout the shutdown to keep the gaze fixed on him —not the recently sworn-in House Democratic majority. Last week, he made a series of seemingly impromptu media appearances, including a lengthy press conference in the Rose Garden and a brief speech in the White House Press Room alongside Border Patrol officers.

Last night, he made his prime-time Oval Office address and will meet with members of Congress both on the Hill and at the White House today. He will also travel to Texas to visit the border later this week.

The media speeches have helped to create the appearance of activity on his part, though he has remained largely static during the negotiations: Mr. Trump has demanded more than $ 5 billion for a wall, while Democrats have demanded that the president reopen the government. Democrats will begin passing bills in the House today to open up pieces of the government, building from an effort last week to pass uncontroversial spending bills held up by the shutdown.

Write to Andrew Duehren at andrew.duehren@wsj.com.

International Affairs

The U.S. and China made progress on narrowing their differences on trade issues. Negotiators addressed a number of nettlesome issues and tried to specify how to ensure China will carry out pledges it made, Lingling Wei reports.

  • Business groups that warned Mr. Trump against a trade war with China but saw their pleas go unheeded are now in talks with the U.S. trade representative over how to shape a deal.

Kim Jong Un’s visit to Beijing offered a reminder of the close ties between North Korea and China. The timing of visit—as the U.S. and China held trade talks—suggests Beijing could see North Korea as leverage in its dispute with the U.S., Josh Chin and Andrew Jeong report.

Turkey’s president rejected a request to protect U.S. allies fighting in the region, instead threatening military strikes against them and throwing President Trump’s plans for a rapid withdrawal of American troops from Syria into disarray, Vivian Salama and Dion Nissenbaum report.

The U.S. sanctioned what officials say is a corrupt Venezuelan network that made billions of dollars in illicit profitsreport Ian Talley and Kejal Vyas. The action is part of a campaign to pressure President Nicolás Maduro into restoring democratic order and the rule of law.

Justice

Paul Manafort’s attorneys inadvertently disclosed details of the former Trump campaign chairman’s links to a Kiev associate. The disclosures, including that the former Trump campaign chairman gave presidential polling data to the associate, surfaced in a filing in which the attorneys disputed Robert Mueller’s allegation that Mr. Manafort lied to investigators about his contacts with the man, Aruna Viswanatha reports.

The Russian lawyer who met with Trump campaign officials at Trump Tower in 2016 was charged with obstruction of justice. Prosecutors allege Natalya Veselnitskaya attempted to thwart a probe into a tax-fraud scheme, report Rebecca Davis O’Brien and Rebecca Ballhaus.

Supreme Court

A mystery-shrouded foreign company can’t avoid penalties for defying a subpoena by claiming sovereign immunitythe court ruled. The subpoena appears to be part of special counsel Mueller’s inquiry into Russian electoral interference.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh delivered his first opinion, writing for a unanimous court to resolve a procedural issue in arbitration between two businesses. In contrast to his contentious confirmation hearings last fall, his debut was the picture of comity, write Jess Bravin and Brent Kendall.

What We’re Reading
  • Republicans are looking for a new message and platform to replace their longtime call to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act after their 2018 losses. (The Hill)
  • In a new national poll, 51% of Americans think President Trump deserves most of the blame for the government shutdown, while 32% blame congressional Democrats. (Reuters)
  • Democrats should want a tough primary race for the 2020 presidential nomination as a way to “weed out the weak.” (American Conservative)
About Us

This newsletter is a production of the WSJ Washington bureau. Our newsletter editors are Tim Hanrahan, Kate Milani, Troy McCullough and Daniel Nasaw. Send feedback to capitaljournal@wsj.com.

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