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 — After a two-month battle over border funding that resulted in the longest government shutdown in U.S. history, it looks like President Trump will end up with the SAME amount of fencing/barrier money he was offered before the showdown began.
Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer offered Trump some $1.3 billion for fencing and barriers in early December, and the legislation that Congress will vote on today and the president *probably* will sign contains - wait for it - $1.375 billion for fencing and barriers at the border.
"We shut down the government for 35 days, we put America through this crisis, we jeopardized our economy — for what?" said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., per the New York Times. "Totally unnecessary."
So we went from Democrats once offering $25 billion for a border wall in exchange for protection for DACA recipients … to Dem leaders offering Trump $1.3 billion for border fencing … to a floated compromise of $2.5 billion during the shutdown … to a final deal of $1.375 billion for fencing.
For all the (valid) grief that Barack Obama got for his negotiating skills, how is this not substantially worse?
As a real-estate negotiator, Trump would apply maximum pressure to wear down the opposition. That tactic works when the stakes are low. But when the stakes are high - and the other side has almost the same power in the negotiations - it doesn't work as well.
When it comes to this fight over the border wall/fencing/barriers, Trump lost. And he lost badly.
Timeline: Here's a look back at the last two months of this border battle
Dec. 10, 2018: The Washington Post reports that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer plan to offer Trump $1.3 billion for border fencing - short of the $5 billion Trump wants.
Dec. 11: In a contentious Oval Office meeting with Pelosi and Schumer, Trump vows to shut down the government if he doesn't get funding for his border wall: "I am proud to shut down the government for border security."
Dec. 19: The Senate passes a stopgap measure to keep the government open until February 8 - without the $5 billion that Trump wants for his border wall - as conservatives criticize the president for not getting his border wall.
Dec. 20: After prodding from Trump, the GOP-led House of Representatives passes a bill that provides $5.7 billion funding for a border wall -- but which can't get 60 votes in the Senate.
Dec. 22: The government partially shuts down after midnight, as Trump continues his demand for a wall: "The crisis of illegal activity at our Southern Border is real and will not stop until we build a great Steel Barrier or Wall. Let work begin!" he tweets later that day.
Dec. 22: On the same day the government partially shuts down, Vice President Mike Pence meets with Schumer, floating a compromise of $2.5 billion in border security funding, including money for a border fence.
Jan. 2, 2019: In a cabinet meeting, Trump rejects the $2.5 billion compromise that Pence had floated: "No, not $2.5 billion, no — we're asking for $5.6 [billion]."
Jan. 3: On the first day of the 116th Congress, the new Democratic-controlled House of Representatives passes two spending bills to reopen the government - one that would fund the Department of Homeland Security through February 8, the other that would fund the rest of the government through September 30. But Senate Majority Leader McConnell insists that the GOP-controlled Senate will only take up legislation that's bipartisan, bicameral and can get signed by President Trump.
Jan. 8: Trump delivers a primetime address from the Oval Office on the shutdown and his demand for a border wall: "The federal government remains shut down for one reason and one reason only: because Democrats will not fund border security."
Jan. 10: Before visiting the border in McAllen, Texas, Trump says he has the right to build his border wall by declaring a national emergency - as a way to end the government shutdown: "I have the absolute right to declare a national emergency. The lawyers have so advised me. I'm not prepared to do that yet."
Jan. 11: Trump says he won't declare a national emergency - at least not yet: "Now, the easy solution is for me to call a national emergency. I could do that very quickly. I have the absolute right to do it but I'm not going to do it so fast, because this is something Congress should do and we're waiting for the Democrats to vote."
Jan. 16: House Speaker Pelosi sends letter to Trump, asking him to delay his State of the Union address until shutdown is ended.
Jan. 23: Trump backs down on standoff over State of the Union, saying he'll deliver the address after shutdown ends.
Jan 24: In the Senate, Democratic measure to reopen the government with no wall funding gets defeated by 52-44 vote (needing 60 to pass), while GOP measure to provide $5.7 billion for Trump's wall gets even fewer votes, 50-47.
Jan. 25: After air traffic controllers call in sick, slowing down the nation's aviation system, Trump signs bill re-opening the government through February 15 - without money for his wall.
Feb. 5: In his State of the Union address, Trump continues demand for his wall: "Simply put, walls work and walls save lives."
Feb. 11: Before Trump's speech in El Paso to campaign for his wall, congressional negotiators reach deal for $1.375 billion for border barriers - plus additional DHS spending (on technology, enforcement, custom officers and humanitarian aid).
Why do Trump associates keep lying about interactions with Russians?
NBC's Tom Winter: "A federal judge ruled Wednesday that prosecutors for special counsel Robert Mueller had proved that Paul Manafort lied on three occasions and agreed the prosecutors are no longer bound by a deal to recommend a lighter sentence for Manafort."
One of those occasions: The judge "ruled that Manafort had made multiple false statements to the FBI, the special counsel's office and grand jury regarding his interactions and communications with Konstantin Kilimnik, a Ukrainian-Russian associate."
And what was that interaction? "The special counsel alleged Manafort 'lied about sharing polling data with Mr. Kilimnik related to the 2016 presidential campaign,'" the Washington Post wrote about a filing from Mueller's team last month.
But maybe more importantly, this is just the LATEST EXAMPLE of a Trump associate lying about interactions with Russians.
Here's the guilty plea for former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn: "On or about January 24, 2017, FLYNN agreed to be interviewed by agents from the FBI ('January 24 voluntary interview'). During the interview, FLYNN falsely stated that he did not ask Russia's Ambassador to the United States ('Russian Ambassador') to refrain from escalating the situation in response to sanctions that the United States had imposed against Russia."
And here's the guilty plea for former Trump lawyer/fixer Michael Cohen: "The Moscow Project was discussed multiple times within the Company and did not end in January 2016. Instead, as late as approximately June 2016, COHEN and Individual 2 discussed efforts to obtain Russian governmental approval for the Moscow Project."
And here's Donald Trump Jr. not telling the truth (initially) about that June 2016 Trump Tower meeting: "When he was first asked about the meeting on Saturday, Donald Trump Jr. said that it was primarily about adoptions and mentioned nothing about Mrs. Clinton," the New York Times said on July 9, 2017. "But on Sunday, presented with The Times's findings, he offered a new account."
NBC's Ken Dilanian has reported that the Senate Intelligence Committee hasn't found *direct evidence* of a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia.
But the mystery remains: Why does Team Trump keep not telling the truth about these interactions with Russians?
Bill Weld is heading to New Hampshire and a GOP primary against Trump is looking more possible
With former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld heading to New Hampshire tomorrow, speculation is increasing that he might challenge Trump in a GOP primary race.
And there are plenty of motivations for *someone* for the GOP to challenge Trump.
One, you'll definitely get attention, with the possibility of Trump agreeing to debates.
Two, polling suggests that about a third of the party is open to a challenge - that's not an insignificant number.
And three, if/when there's a debate about a Republican Party AFTER Trump, anyone who takes him on in 2020 could have a seat at that table.
On the 2020 trail, per NBC's Kyle Stewart
John Hickenlooper is in New Hampshire… And Howard Schultz is on the DC leg of book tour.