Where's the "art of the deal"? Trump has simply stopped negotiating to end the shutdown

Image: Donald Trump
President Donald Trump during a briefing on Hurricane Michael in the Oval Office on Oct. 10, 2018. Copyright Saul Loeb AFP - Getty Images file
By Chuck Todd and Mark Murray and Ben Kamisar 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 — As workers continue without pay, as many government services remain closed and as the aviation community worries that its system has become less safe, President Trump has simply stopped negotiating to end the partial government shutdown, which enters its 34th day.

On Wednesday, he met with conservative leaders to discuss his immigration proposal - but not with Democrats, who control the House and who are essential to getting the 60 votes needed to pass legislation in the Senate.

Today, he has no public events on his schedule - just like he did on Tuesday.

And as the Senate today considers two bills to reopen the government - 1) the Trump/McConnell proposal that would include money for Trump's border wall and give temporary protection to DACA recipients, and 2) the Democratic proposal to fund the government into February - the president hasn't lifted a finger in recent days to get Democrats to support his measure. (Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., confirmed to NBC's Frank Thorp earlier this week that the White House had yet to reach out to him.)

Bottom line: The man who authored "The Art of the Deal" hasn't even really tried to strike a deal.

Sure, he offered his proposal on Saturday to give temporary protection to DACA recipients and other immigrants. But it came without consultation to Democrats, and with poison pills attached (like changing the asylum process for Central American minors).

And sure, Democrats haven't been exactly racing to call Trump (though House Dems a preparing a counterproposal to meet or exceed $5.7 billion on border security but with no money for a physical wall). Then again, Trump is the one who's demanding something (his wall) in this shutdown standoff.

"Both sides in Washington must simply come together, listen to each other, put down their armor, build trust, reach across the aisle, and find solutions," Trump said on Saturday when he offered his proposal.

But where's the coming together? The listening? The trust-building? And the reaching across the aisle?

Trump backs down on the State of the Union standoff

NBC News: "President Donald Trump late Wednesday announced he would not hold a State of the Union address until after the partial government shutdown, now in its fifth week, is over... Trump said on Twitter: 'As the Shutdown was going on, Nancy Pelosi asked me to give the State of the Union Address. I agreed. She then changed her mind because of the Shutdown, suggesting a later date. This is her prerogative - I will do the Address when the Shutdown is over.'"

It is a very rare move for Trump to back down on anything, and it suggests we COULD be closer to solving the shutdown than we were a day ago. In fact, Trump backing down here - instead of marching ahead to give a State of the Union address somewhere else - is what you'd do if you were trying to get out of this mess.

Trump also acknowledging this, via the Washington Post, also is a sign we could be closer to resolving the shutdown:

"Sources in the room told us that Trump pointed out that shutting down the government costs more than building the wall, 'so this is kind of stupid and every day this goes on the cost gets higher,' [the Heritage Foundation's Stephen] Moore added, paraphrasing Trump."


More rough polls for Trump

Last week, we noted several polls that showed the government shutdown taking a toll on the president. And yesterday, we got more surveys showing his approval rating is down since the shutdown:

  • An AP poll had Trump's job approval at 34 percent among all Americans - down from 42 percent in December

  • CBS had it at 36 percent among all Americans

  • And a Fox News poll had it at 43 percent among registered voters - down from 46 percent in December

What's more, that Fox poll has 51 percent believing Trump is mostly responsible for the shutdown, compared with 34 percent who believe Democrats are mostly responsible.

In interview, Pompeo doesn't 100 percent knock down the speculation he might run for the Senate

Nothing in this exchange with Fox News's Martha McCallum suggests that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is a firm/hard "no" on running for the Senate.

Check it out:


MCCALLUM: Quick question for you on Kansas politics. A lot of speculation out there that you might consider running for Pat Roberts' seat. There were reports that you spent some time over the weekend with Republican strategist Ward Baker to discuss that possibility, and that Mitch McConnell is urging you to run.

POMPEO: Lots of folks have reached out to me and suggested I ought to do that. I have suggested to them that I have a very full plate as Secretary of State, and I intend to keep doing this so long as President Trump will commit to it.

MCCALLUM: So no intention to get involved in the Senate race in Kansas?

POMPEO: Martha, every day I'm trying to make sure that I'm doing what President Trump wants me to do to keep America safe. That's my singular focus.

MCCALLUM: Is Mitch McConnell trying to change your mind about that? I know that Kris Kobach, who lost the governor's race there, is considered a possibility to run for that seat.


POMPEO: I spoke to Senator McConnell once. He asked me if I'd think about it, and I told him I appreciated the phone call.

Folks, saying "I intend to keep doing this so long as President Trump will commit to it" is not a "no."

Cohen postpones congressional testimony

"Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's former personal lawyer and fixer, is delaying his public testimony before Congress 'due to ongoing threats against his family from President Trump' and members of his legal team, Cohen attorney Lanny Davis said in a statement Wednesday," per NBC's Rebecca Shabad.

"Cohen, 52, was set to appear voluntarily before the House Oversight Committee, chaired by Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., on Feb. 7. Cohen is scheduled to report to prison on March 6."

Trump tweeted this morning: "So interesting that bad lawyer Michael Cohen, who sadly will not be testifying before Congress, is using the lawyer of Crooked Hillary Clinton to represent him - Gee, how did that happen? Remember July 4th weekend when Crooked went before FBI & wasn't sworn in, no tape, nothing?"

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