Conservatives slam Trump for not getting his border wall from Congress

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.
Image: Donald Trump at Border Wall
President Donald Trump speaks during a tour as he reviews border wall prototypes on March 13, 2018 in San Diego, as Rodney Scott, the Border Patrol's San Diego sector chief, listens.Evan Vucci / AP file

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
By Chuck Todd, Mark Murray and Carrie Dann

WASHINGTON — Last night, the Senate passed a stopgap measure to keep the government open until Feb. 8 — without the $5 billion that President Donald Trump wants for his border wall — and the House is expected to take up the legislation today.

And some prominent conservative voices aren’t happy about it. At all. “It is now crystal clear that one of two things is true: Either Trump never intended to build the wall and was scamming voters all along, or he has no idea how to get it done and zero interest in finding out,” Ann Coulter writes.

Here was Rush Limbaugh yesterday: “I mean, Washington came together to pass [criminal justice reform] in like 10 minutes. Meanwhile, $5 billion, a measly $5 billion — when compared to the size of the federal budget for border security — is an impossibility. Somebody needs to explain to me how this happened.”

The headline on Drudge from yesterday? “WALL STALL: TRUMP IN RETREAT.”

And to top it off, there’s an actual GoFundMe campaign to raise money for Trump’s border wall, and it’s already brought in more than $2.8 million.

Remember when Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer offered Trump some $20 billion — not $5 billion, but $20 billion (!!!) — in exchange for codification of the DACA program, but Trump rejected the deal because he wanted curbs to legal immigration as well?

And at publication time this morning, it appears Trump is threatening NOT to sign the stopgap measure. “The Democrats, who know Steel Slats (Wall) are necessary for Border Security, are putting politics over Country. What they are just beginning to realize is that I will not sign any of their legislation, including infrastructure, unless it has perfect Border Security. U.S.A. WINS!” he tweeted.

But then Trump followed up with this tweet: “With so much talk about the Wall, people are losing sight of the great job being done on our Southern Border by Border Patrol, ICE and our great Military. Remember the Caravans? Well, they didn’t get through and none are forming or on their way. Border is tight. Fake News silent!”

So if the border is tight, why the wall?

Putin praises Trump’s decision to withdraw from Syria

And as plenty of hawkish Republicans oppose Trump’s move to pull out U.S. troops from Syria, he’s getting praise from … Vladimir Putin.

“Russian President Vladimir Putin praised President Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, describing the American presence there as illegitimate and the Islamic State as largely defeated on the ground,” the Washington Post reports. “Putin told journalists at his annual year-end news conference that the Islamic State has suffered ‘serious blows’ in Syria. ‘On this, Donald is right. I agree with him,’ Putin said.”

Why is Putin praising Trump? Maybe here’s the answer: “Although Russian and Iranian forces had already turned the tide of the civil war in favor of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the presence of U.S. troops has served as an obstacle to their ambitions and a source of leverage for Washington in any potential political settlement of the conflict,” per NBC’s Dan De Luce, Josh Lederman and Courtney Kube.

“But with Trump's move to pull out the U.S. troops, Russia and particularly Iran — which sent thousands of proxies and its own elite forces into Syria — stand to emerge as the dominant players in a country that shares a border with Israel.”

Trump, however, is casting the United States leaving Syria as bad news for Russia and Iran. “Russia, Iran, Syria & many others are not happy about the U.S. leaving, despite what the Fake News says, because now they will have to fight ISIS and others, who they hate, without us. I am building by far the most powerful military in the world. ISIS hits us they are doomed!” he tweeted this morning.

How the Trump administration got bipartisan support for criminal justice reform

As Trump tweets this morning on his border wall and Syria, he hasn’t been emphasizing the criminal justice reform legislation that is on its way to becoming a significant victory for the president.

Here’s NBC’s Leigh Caldwell on the tick-tock of how the legislation got bipartisan support – with the Trump administration’s help. “Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin, a longtime criminal justice reform advocate, put it this way: ‘A breakthrough I’d never expect — the election of Donald Trump as president. What does that have to do with this? He brought his son-in-law to town.’”

“Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, made criminal justice reform a priority, having seen the federal prison system firsthand after his father, real estate developer Charles Kushner, spent 14 months behind bars for tax evasion and illegal campaign contributions. But the president's adviser wasn’t ready to agree to what longtime advocates were proposing.”

WSJ: Trump’s new pick for attorney general criticized Mueller probe

The Wall Street Journal: “William Barr, President Trump's choice for attorney general, sent an unsolicited memo earlier this year to the Justice Department that excoriated special counsel Robert Mueller's inquiry into potential obstruction of justice by Mr. Trump, saying it is based on a ‘fatally misconceived’ theory that would cause lasting damage to the presidency and the executive branch.”

More: “In the memo, Mr. Barr wrote he sent it as a ‘former official’ who hoped his ‘views may be useful.’ He wrote he was concerned about the part of Mr. Mueller's probe that, according to news reports in the Journal and elsewhere, has explored whether Mr. Trump obstructed justice in asking then-FBI director James Comey to drop an investigation into former national security adviser Mike Flynn's contacts with Russia, and by later firing Mr. Comey. Mr. Barr's memo, dated June 8 and sent to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, argues that, based on the facts as he understands them, the president was acting well within his executive-branch authority.”

Is Roger Stone close to being charged?

“Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III asked the House Intelligence Committee on Friday for an official transcript of Trump adviser Roger Stone’s testimony, according to people familiar with the request, a sign that prosecutors could be moving to charge him with a crime,” per the Washington Post. “It is the first time Mueller has formally asked the committee to turn over material the panel has gathered in its investigation of Russian interference of the 2016 campaign, according to the people. The move suggests that the special counsel is moving to finalize his months-long investigation of Stone — a key part of Mueller’s inquiry into whether anyone in President Trump’s orbit coordinated with the Russians.”

Possible 2020 Democrats gather in Iowa

Beginning at 7:15 p.m. ET tonight, potential presidential candidates Pete Buttigieg, Jeff Merkley and Eric Swalwell attend the sixth-annual Progress Iowa Holiday Party in Des Moines, Iowa.

Also in attendance will be Iowa’s two new Democratic congresswomen — Cindy Axne and Abby Finkenauer.

Looking at the 2020ers’ fav/unfav ratings

Finally, a national Quinnipiac poll looked at the favorable/unfavorable ratings for some of the possible Democratic presidential hopefuls. Here are their numbers among ALL voters, from best to worst

  • Joe Biden: 53 percent favorable, 33 percent unfavorable (+20)
  • Beto O’Rourke: 24 percent favorable, 20 percent unfavorable (+4)
  • Sherrod Brown: 12 percent favorable, 9 percent unfavorable (+3)
  • Bernie Sanders: 44 percent favorable, 42 percent unfavorable (+2)
  • Kamala Harris: 20 percent favorable, 22 percent unfavorable (-2)
  • Kirsten Gillibrand: 14 percent favorable, 17 percent unfavorable (-3)
  • Cory Booker: 22 percent favorable, 26 percent unfavorable (-4)
  • Elizabeth Warren: 30 percent favorable, 37 percent unfavorable (-7)
  • Michael Bloomberg: 22 percent favorable, 32 percent unfavorable (-10)
  • Hillary Clinton: 32 percent favorable, 61 percent unfavorable (-29)

By the way, Trump’s fav/unfav in the poll is 40 percent favorable, 56 percent unfavorable (-16).