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Trump, GOP don't have a plan to avert a government shutdown — at least not yet

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: US Capitol
The U.S. Capitol Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

WASHINGTON — With part of the government expected to shut down after Friday if Congress doesn’t pass a spending bill to fund it, Republican senators on Monday admitted the GOP doesn’t have a plan — other than the $5 billion President Donald Trump wants for his border wall.

Here was Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, yesterday, per NBC’s Marianna Sotomayor:

Q: Are we avoiding a shutdown?

CORNYN: No ... I take that back. If there is, I’m not aware of it.

Q: Is there a sense of where the president wants to go?


Q: Why not?

CORNYN: He hasn’t told us.

Q: What are the chances of a shutdown at this point?

CORNYN: I think it will all work out, but I don’t know of any specific plan yet.

Q: Short term [continuing resolution]?

CORNYN: Well, I’ve heard that mentioned, but I don’t think the president will accept that. So he would have to sign it or it would have to be passed over his veto.

Q: You don’t know what the president wants?

CORNYN: Well, he wants a wall.

Also, here was Sen. John Kennedy, R-La.: “If the White House has a plan [to avoid a shutdown], they're keeping it to themselves… I don't want to have this fight and shut the government down unless we have a chance to win it.”

And then there’s this to chew on: The White House has very little leverage if there’s a shutdown fight. For one thing, as the New York Times writes, defeated House Republicans haven’t been showing up to cast votes — so that reduces the size of their soon-to-end majority.

Then there’s the incoming House Democratic majority come Jan. 3: If there’s a shutdown, Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats can introduce a bill to keep the government open and dare the GOP-controlled Senate not to follow suit.

Next, there’s the lack of a Republican appetite to have a shutdown (just check out those Cornyn and Kennedy quotes above).

And finally, there are Trump’s own words appearing to accept responsibility if the government does indeed shut down ("I am proud to shut down the government for border security," he said at last week’s meeting with Pelosi and Chuck Schumer.)

So no plan — and even less leverage. Bottom line: Many in Trump’s party don’t want this fight.

Michael Flynn gets sentenced today

Former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn is set to be sentenced regarding his guilty plea in making false statements to the FBI and special counsel Robert Mueller’s team has recommended little to no jail time for Flynn.

On Monday, Mueller’s office released the notes of Flynn’s false statements to the FBI. NBC News: “According to the guilty plea to which Flynn agreed last year, Flynn made false statements about his communications with Sergey Kislyak — the Russian ambassador to the United States at the time — in the weeks before Trump was inaugurated on Jan. 20, 2017. The notes of the FBI's interview with Flynn on Jan. 24, 2017, were filed with some parts redacted on Monday. The agents reported that Flynn denied discussing U.S. sanctions imposed against Russia by the Obama administration; Flynn later admitted the discussions in his guilty plea.”

Interestingly, Trump wished Flynn “good luck” today at his sentencing. “Good luck today in court to General Michael Flynn,” the president tweeted. “Will be interesting to see what he has to say, despite tremendous pressure being put on him, about Russian Collusion in our great and, obviously, highly successful political campaign. There was no Collusion!”

It’s worth asking: Why have Trump and the conservative media treated Flynn FAR differently than, say, Michael Cohen, especially since Mueller says Flynn has cooperated?

Russians targeted Mueller on social media

Speaking of Mueller, don’t miss this Washington Post article. “Months after President Trump took office, Russia’s disinformation teams trained their sights on a new target: special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. Having worked to help get Trump into the White House, they now worked to neutralize the biggest threat to his staying there,” the Post writes.

“The Russian operatives unloaded on Mueller through fake accounts on Facebook, Twitter and beyond, falsely claiming that the former FBI director was corrupt and that the allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 election were crackpot conspiracies. One post on Instagram — which emerged as an especially potent weapon in the Russian social media arsenal — claimed that Mueller had worked in the past with ‘radical Islamic groups.’”

More from the NBC/WSJ poll: Public is increasingly pessimistic about the U.S. economy

These numbers from our recent NBC/WSJ poll should be getting more attention: The percentage of Americans believing the economy will get worse in the next 12 months is at its highest point since 2013. Overall, 28 percent say the economy will get better in the next year, 33 percent think it will get worse and 37 believe it will stay the same.

Those numbers were essentially reversed last January: 35 percent said the economy would get better, 20 percent said it would get worse and 43 percent said it would stay the same.

And by the way, the day after the Dow Jones fell more than 500 points, the Wall Street Journal runs this headline: “Global Stocks Falter After Sharp Selloff on Wall Street.”

Beto O’Rourke isn’t in a hurry to decide on 2020, per the AP

Last week, we said that a decision on Beto O’Rourke’s presidential candidacy — is he running or not? — might be the biggest shoe to drop on the 2020 race. And the AP is reporting that Beto is taking his time to make that decision.

“The outgoing Texas congressman’s team says he has no timeline or roadmap for deciding if he’d like to parlay a surprisingly close loss to Republican Sen. Ted Cruz into a White House try. People close to O’Rourke insist he hasn’t expanded staff or lined up consultants even as the interest in him intensifies. They say he’s spoken to top Democratic donors, but describe such discussions as fact-finding missions, researching the logistics of a possible run rather than securing assurances that coming campaign cash would go to him and not others.”