The US government is edging closer to a shutdown before Christmas, and the Senate faces a tough vote today over whether to continue funding the Saudi Arabia-led coalition that’s caused hundreds of thousands to starve in Yemen. But the most recent White House news is all about the wall Donald Trump wants to build between the US and Mexico, and the ongoing fallout from a New York investigation into Donald Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen.
Former speaker of the House Newt Gingrich is being considered for White House chief of staff, according to White House reporter Andrew Feinberg from Breakfast Media, who cites two unnamed sources, plenty to get the DC gossip machine up and rolling. Gingrich was spotted leaving the White House yesterday, but given his stated preference for the private sector, and his love for Italy, where his wife Calista is serving as ambassador to the Vatican, it seems unlikely.
Oh, he also says he’s not interested.
The White House cancelled its annual Christmas Party with journalists, Fox News reports. The party, a decades-long White House tradition, has generally featured the awkward spectacle of journalists who cover the president drinking and making cringe-worthy small talk with his staff, and then posing for a stilted photo. Trump didn’t pose for photos at the press Christmas party last year, and hasn’t appeared at the White House Correspondents dinner for two years running. The president and first lady will hold two Christmas receptions at the White House today, his public schedule notes, but there are no further details about who is invited.
Trump called Michael Cohen, his lawyer for 12 years, a liability and a turncoat on Twitter, and dismissed Cohen’s guilty plea for campaign finance violations, tax evasion, and lying to Congress. Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison yesterday (Dec. 12). Trump alleges he didn’t tell him to explicitly break the law, a distinction that really doesn’t matter, as Quartz pointed out yesterday):
And he alleges that Cohen’s campaign finance charges are not criminal charges (they are), and that his former lawyer probably wasn’t guilty of violating campaign finance laws (he unequivocally was, prosecutors said).
The new NAFTA agreement, dubbed the USMCA by the United States, is going to save the US so much money that Mexico is in effect paying for the border wall, Trump also alleges this morning. He didn’t spell out the math behind that claim, though, or say whether it means he’s backing down from his threat to shut down the government if he doesn’t get funding for the wall.
The wall continues to be on the administration’s mind, despite the fact that it is unpopular with most Americans, and most elected politicians. The Department of Homeland Security put out an oddly worded press release late on the 12th, suggesting that the wall is already being built. “DHS is committed to building wall and building wall quickly,” it says.
When it comes down to it, Trump doesn’t actually want a wall, Vox’s Tara Golshan speculates, he just wants to have a fight about a wall.