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Three questions heading into the next immigration showdown

by Chuck Todd, Mark Murray and Carrie Dann /
Image: Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., speaks during a rally in support of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., speaks during a rally in support of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) outside of the Capitol on Jan. 21, 2018, in Washington.Jose Luis Magana / AP

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First Read is your briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.

WASHINGTON — The government shutdown may be over, but the fight over immigration is now only beginning.

And while we did learn a few things from the nearly three-day shutdown, there are three outstanding questions heading into February 8, when the latest short-term funding bill expires.

1. Can Democrats regroup and reunite?

The Democratic base is upset after their party’s retreat. “You know, Democrats are pretty good at articulating values, but a little weak on defending them," Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., told NBC’s Kasie Hunt on MSNBC yesterday. And as MoveOn's Ben Wikler said in the New York Times: “In the Obama years, Republicans learned to be more afraid of primary challenges than general elections. But Democrats are still operating as though the Tea Party is more powerful than The Resistance.”

Remember, the parties that are more united win these political/legislative fights, while the parties that are divided typically lose. And as soon as Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., ended their opposition to a short-term funding bill, Democrats were the more divided party.

2. Can Trump remain restrained?

On Monday, we wrote how President Trump had been MIA during the shutdown standoff, and the Washington Post has more: “A photo released by the White House over the weekend showed Trump seated in the Oval Office behind a desk barren of papers, wearing a white ‘Make America Great Again’ hat while appearing to talk on the phone. The staging epitomized Trump’s role during the roughly 72-hour crisis: A president to be seen but not publicly heard outside the confines of his team’s highly controlled communications operation.”

Trump’s absence helped the GOP, but there’s an argument that — if there’s going to be a final compromise — he has to play an important role, particularly when it comes to the House.

3. Will there be a greater sense of urgency to resolve DACA in February?

The smart money is yes. While DACA advocates made their case that Dreamers’ fate needed to be resolved ASAP, Congress never works that way — it always waits until the last minute, or (like with CHIP) well after a program has expired.

The potential deportation of hundreds of thousands of productive people living in the United States is a profound story. But even when there’s a crisis, Congress almost always waits until the last minute.

White House releases a statement confirming it’s demanding changes to the FBI when the agency is investigating the Trump campaign

On Monday night, Axios reported that “Attorney General Jeff Sessions — at the public urging of President Donald Trump — has been pressuring FBI Director Christopher Wray to fire Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, but Wray threatened to resign if McCabe was removed.”

NBC News has been unable to confirm the Axios story. But the White House sent this statement from Principal Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah: "As we've said, the president has enormous respect for the thousands of rank and file FBI agents who make up the world's most professional and talented law enforcement agency. He believes politically-motivated senior leaders including former Director Comey and others he empowered have tainted the agency's reputation for unbiased pursuit of justice. The president appointed Chris Wray because he is a man of true character and integrity and the right choice to clean up the misconduct at the highest levels of the FBI and give the rank and file confidence in their leadership."

To repeat, the White House says here it’s DEMANDING changes to the FBI (“He believes politically-motivated senior leaders including former Director Comey and others he empowered have tainted the agency's reputation for unbiased pursuit of justice”) — at a time when the FBI is INVESTIGATING the Trump campaign.

By the way, guess which politician or institution is the most popular, per our most recent NBC/WSJ poll:

  • Federal Bureau of Investigation: 53 percent positive, 19 percent negative (+34)
  • Joe Biden: 54 percent positive, 22 percent negative (+32)
  • Barack Obama: 57 percent positive, 29 percent negative (+28)
  • The Me Too Movement: 37 percent positive, 10 percent negative (+27)
  • Oprah Winfrey: 48 percent positive, 24 percent negative (+24)
  • George W. Bush: 46 percent positive, 26 percent negative (+20)
  • Robert Mueller: 28 percent positive, 14 percent negative (+14)
  • Mitt Romney: 29 percent positive, 30 percent negative (-1)
  • Paul Ryan: 28 percent positive, 33 percent negative (-5)
  • Mike Pence: 33 percent positive, 39 percent negative (-6)
  • Donald Trump: 36 percent positive, 56 percent negative (-20)
  • Mitch McConnell: 13 percent positive, 39 percent negative (-26)
  • Steve Bannon: 5 percent positive, 49 percent negative (-44)

NBC/WSJ poll: Support for a more active government reaches an all-time high

Speaking of our NBC/WSJ poll, the survey shows 58 percent of Americans believing the government should do more to solve problems and meet the needs of people — the highest percentage on this question dating back to 1995.

This includes 81 percent of Democrats who want a more active government, 52 percent of independents and even 33 percent (!!!) of Republicans.

Remember when Bill Clinton declared that “the era of big government is over”? Well, we can now say the era of OPPOSITION to big government is over.”

This is a profound change in American politics.

The Democrats’ path to the House probably just got a little easier

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s move to throw out the state’s current Congressional district map due to gerrymandering concerns is a big boon for Democrats. Why? The redrawn maps, which must be complete by February 9, are almost certain to move at least one seat significantly in Democrats’ favor, with the potential for other shifts that brighten the map for Democrats as well.

The Cook Political Report’s David Wasserman tells NBC that the changes will probably make the state’s Seventh District close to a sure pickup for Democrats and likely nudge the open seat in the Fifteenth District further from the GOP. The picture is a little less clear for other seats in suburban Philadelphia, but – regardless — the jumble sure looks like it will put the House majority at least a bit more in reach for Democrats.

Michigan man: “Fake news. I’m coming to gun you all down”

A reminder: Words – especially coming from a president – have consequences: NBC News: “A Michigan man was free on $10,000 bond Monday after he was arrested on a charge that he called CNN's Atlanta headquarters and threatened: ‘Fake news. I'm coming to gun you all down.’ The man, Brandon Griesemer, was arrested Friday at the home he shares with his parents in Novi, near Detroit, according to federal court records. He posted bond the same day on a charge of transmitting interstate communications with the intent to extort and threat to injure, according to the court calendar.”

“According to an FBI affidavit, Griesemer, for whom no age was given, called CNN 22 times on Jan. 9 and 10, railing against African-Americans, Jews and CNN from the same phone number that was used in September to communicate threats against an Islamic center in Ann Arbor. The affidavit alleged that Griesemer admitted making the call to the Islamic center to local police.”

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