Shutdown, Brexit wobble the West

Image: Anti-Brexit supporters hold placards and flags as they demonstrate o
Anti-Brexit supporters hold placards and flags as they demonstrate outside the Houses of Parliament on Jan. 14, 2019. Copyright Tolga Akmen AFP - Getty Images
Copyright Tolga Akmen AFP - Getty Images
By Chuck Todd and Mark Murray and Carrie Dann with NBC News Politics
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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 — Vladimir Putin has to be smiling after the last 24 hours.

In the United States, President Trump's push for a border wall has now partially shut down the federal government for 26 days and counting.

And in Britain, Prime Minister Theresa May "suffered the biggest parliamentary defeat of any British prime minister in history Tuesday as lawmakers of all stripes crushed her plan to leave the European Union," per NBC News.

These developments — plus the instability in France and Germany — show just how politically crippled the West is right now.

And, oh by the way, guess which country meddled in the 2016 elections in Britain and the United States?

Speaking of Russia and Putin, the New York Times takes a deep dive into the five times when Trump has met with Putin. "Mr. Trump has adamantly insisted there was 'no collusion' with Russia during his 2016 presidential campaign. But each of the five times he has met with Mr. Putin since taking office, he has fueled suspicions about their relationship. The unusually secretive way he has handled these meetings has left many in his own administration guessing what happened and piqued the interest of investigators."

More: "The mystery surrounding the meetings seems to have drawn attention from the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, who is examining ties between the president and Russia. And it has generated a furor in Congress, where Democrats are pushing to subpoena the notes of the president's interpreters or perhaps the interpreters themselves."

And: "Veterans of past administrations could not recall a precedent for a president meeting alone with an adversary and keeping so many of his own advisers from being briefed on what was said."

Here's how the government shutdown is hurting the U.S. economy

As our friend Amy Walter observes, the overall state of the economy — not TSA workers at airports or missed paychecks — might be the biggest pressure point on President Trump and Congress to solve the government shutdown.

And here's the toll the 26-day shutdown is having on the economy:

  • The Trump administration's Council of Economic Advisers said it reduces economic growth by 0.13 percentage points for each week it lasts. "That means that the economy has already lost nearly half a percentage point of growth from the four-week shutdown," the New York Times writes.

  • As NBC's Tom Costello reported on "Today" this morning, Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JPMorgan Chase warned that first quarter economic growth could be wiped out if the shutdown continues through March.

  • And as Bloomberg's Sahil Kapur reminds us, the government shutdown from 2013 cost the U.S. economy $1.5 billion per day, according to S&P.

Not surprisingly, the Washington Post says that the Trump administration is calling back tens of thousands of federal workers — who send out tax refunds, oversee flight safety and inspect the country's food supply — without pay. (Question: Is it legal to recall IRS employees, who aren't vital to the nation's security, to work without pay?)

Where William Barr broke from Trump and where he embraced him

The Senate Judiciary Committee holds its second day of hearings on William Barr's nomination to be the country's next attorney general.

Yesterday, here's where Barr broke from Trump: "In his opening remarks that Mueller's investigation should continue unimpeded — and that the public should be informed of the results of that probe," per NBC's Rebecca Shabad. 'I believe it is vitally important that the special counsel be allowed to complete his investigation,' Barr said."

Barr also said the Mueller probe is not a "witch hunt."

But here's where Barr embraced Trump and his policies:

On the shutdown

KLOBUCHAR: What message would you send to DOJ workers who have been furloughed or who aren't getting paid due to the shutdown?

BARR: "I would like to see a deal reached whereby Congress recognizes that it's imperative to have border security."


On the border

"So we need a barrier system across the border, and part of that is illegal immigration, but a big part of it also is preventing the influx of drugs."

On sanctuary cities

ERNST: "Do you believe that sanctuary cities play a role in harboring some of those [criminal] activities?"

BARR: "Yes, I do. I think there are a number of sort of, you know, of factors that have a hydraulic effect in that they pull people into the United States or induce them to take the hazards of coming into the United States, coming up hundreds of miles through Mexico and so forth."


Will the public see the Mueller report? Barr's answer was cryptic here

HIRONO: You said that the Mueller report is confidential pursuant to whatever the regulations are that apply to Him. So I'm just trying to get as to what you are going to be transparent about?

BARR: As the rules stand now, people should be aware, the rules I think say that the independent, special counsel will prepare a summary report on any prosecutive or declination decisions, and that shall be confidential and shall be treated as any other declination or prosecutive material within the department in addition the Attorney General is responsible for notifying and reporting certain information upon the conclusion of the investigation. Now how these will fit together and what can be gotten out there I would have to wait, I'd want to talk to Rod Rosenstein and see what he has discussed with Mueller.

Gillibrand announces presidential exploratory committee

"Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand announced on Tuesday that she is forming an exploratory committee to consider a 2020 presidential bid. 'I'm going to run for president of the United States,' the New York Democrat, 52, said on CBS' 'The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,'" per NBC's Jane Timm.

"In a clip of her taped interview released online ahead of the show's broadcast Tuesday evening, Gillibrand said she is forming her exploratory committee 'tonight,' garnering big cheers from the audience. 'As a young mom, I'm going to fight for other people's kids as I'm going to fight for my own, which is why I believe that healthcare should be a right and not a privilege. It's why I believe we should have better public schools for a kid, because it shouldn't matter what block you grow up on,' she said."


Gillibrand holds a media availability at a diner in Troy, N.Y., at 9:00 am ET. And she heads to Iowa this weekend.

2020: Who's in, who's out, who are we still waiting on?

After Gillibrand's announcement yesterday, here's our look at the Democrats who are in, out, and still thinking about the 2020 presidential race:

Those who have filed paperwork or announced presidential bids

  • Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (who announced her exploratory committee on January 15)
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren (who announced her exploratory committee on December 31)
  • Former San Antonio Mayor and HUD Secretary Julian Castro (who formally announced his decision on January 12)
  • Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (who announced her decision to run on January 11)
  • Former Maryland Congressman John Delaney (who announced his presidential bid back on July 28, 2017!!!!)
  • Failed Dem congressional candidate Richard Ojeda (who filed his FEC paperwork on November 11 - a week after losing his bid in West Virginia)

The other potential candidates we're watching (in no particular order)

  • Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.
  • Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke, D-Texas
  • Former VP Joe Biden
  • Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J.
  • Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif.
  • Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio (who is embarking on a tour of early states)
  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.
  • Former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg
  • Montana Gov. Steve Bullock
  • Washington Gov. Jay Inslee
  • Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe
  • Former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu
  • Current Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti
  • South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg
  • Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore.
  • Outgoing Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper
  • Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo.
  • Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif.

Possible 2020 Dems who have declined to run

  • Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick
  • Attorney Michael Avenatti
  • Former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley
  • Tom Steyer

Eat, pray, govern: Beto talks to the Washington Post

In an interview with the Washington Post, possible 2020er Beto O'Rourke was — pick your term — contemplative/reflective/indecisive on policy matters.

So what should be done to address visa overstays?

"I don't know," O'Rourke said, pausing in a lengthy interview.

"That's a problem when you're like, 'It will be a wall,' or 'It will be this,' or 'We can only do it with this,'" O'Rourke said when asked why he doesn't have firm stances. "The genius is we can nonviolently resolve our differences, though I won't get to my version of perfect or I, working with you, will get to something better than what we have today."

When asked whether he agrees with Trump's plan to quickly withdraw troops from Syria, O'Rourke said he would like to see "a debate, a discussion, a national conversation about why we're there, why we fight, why we sacrifice the lives of American service members, why we're willing to take the lives of others" in all the countries where the U.S. is involved.


"Can an empire like ours with military presence in over 170 countries around the globe, with trading relationships . . . and security agreements in every continent, can it still be managed by the same principles that were set down 230-plus years ago?"

This interview is a reminder that, despite his high-profile race in Texas last year, much of the country — and political press corps - doesn't really know him yet.

Castro remains in New Hampshire

On his second-straight day in the Granite State, Julian Castro participates in the Politics and Eggs speaker forum and takes a tour of navigating recovery of the Lakes region.

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