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Trump Signals Defeat on Wall Demand as Christmas Crisis Deadline Nears
Democrats ‘fight to the death’ to block barrier project, president gripes

President Donald Trump argues about border security with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer , right, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi as Vice President Mike Pence listens in the Oval Office last week. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump signaled defeat Wednesday on his threat to shut down nearly half the federal government over his border wall funding demand, possibly pulling the country back from the brink of a Christmas crisis.

His morning tweet and spokeswoman’s comments Tuesday marked another abrupt reversal for the 45th president, who last week roared at the top two congressional Democrats that he would “take the mantle” and shut down parts of the government unless they gave him $5 billion for his border barrier.

Senate Sends Criminal Justice Bill to the House
Action comes after years of debate, bipartisan support

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.,resisted bringing the criminal justice bill to the floor initially, but he ultimately supported it. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The Senate voted 87-12 to pass an amended criminal justice overhaul bill on Tuesday, sending a bipartisan measure that almost did not make it to the floor to what backers said was a clear and swift path to becoming law.

The bill, which was brought to the floor as an amendment to an unrelated measure, survived initial indifference from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., a series of amendments from Republican opponents, and the addition of some other amendments before ultimately earning an overwhelming bipartisan final vote.

It’s the President’s Latest TV Drama. Call It ‘Trump Show: Shutdown’
POTUS cast himself as maestro, but Republicans lack Christmas crisis-averting plan

Can President Donald Trump extract himself and Congress from the the shutdown-related dramatics he has fanned? (Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call file photo)

ANALYSIS | Republicans — despite controlling the House, Senate and White House — have no firm plan to avert a partial government shutdown scheduled to start on Friday night. But for President Donald Trump, that’s just when he feels most in control.

“We’ll see what happens,” Trump said Tuesday afternoon during an unrelated event. “It’s too early to say.” (Translation: Stay tuned to “The Trump Show.”)

Senators Preparing to Punt Spending Fight to February
Democrats rejected latest GOP border wall offer

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said earlier Tuesday that he would consider punting the appropriations fight into next year, with the caveat he had to see what the White House was willing to accept. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Updated 8:07 p.m. | Congressional leaders are moving closer to a stopgap funding bill that would save Christmas, but push off final decisions on fiscal 2019 spending until early February.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard C. Shelby said the Senate was preparing to advance a continuing resolution for all seven unfinished spending bills that would last until early February.

Judge Lights Into Michael Flynn: ‘You Sold Your Country Out’
‘I’m not hiding my disgust... for your criminal offense,’ judge tells Flynn in dramatic courtroom tirade

Former White House National Security Adviser Michael Flynn is greeted by protesters and supporters as he and his wife Lori Andrade arrive at the Prettyman Federal Courthouse in Washington on Tuesday before his sentencing for lying to the FBI about his communication with former Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Federal Judge Emmet Sullivan suggested that former Trump administration national security adviser Michael Flynn could have been charged with treason during a fiery tirade at the three-star general’s sentencing hearing Tuesday.

Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and his team of prosecutors did not charge Flynn with treason, and multiple legal experts have said it would be extraordinarily difficult for them to prove such a charge.

Judge Unexpectedly Delays Michael Flynn Sentencing
Judge signals he’s prepared to send former national security adviser to jail despite agreement with prosecutors

Michael Flynn, former national security adviser, leaves the E. Barrett Prettyman Courthouse after a federal judge delayed his sentencing Tuesday. Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Former Trump national security and campaign adviser Michael Flynn will not be sentenced for lying to the FBI until March.

A federal judge agreed to delay the sentencing of the former Trump official after signaling to Flynn and his attorneys that he was prepared to send Flynn to prison unless he learned more about his cooperation with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

Cindy Hyde-Smith Sworn in for Second Time This Year
Appointed Mississippi Republican won special election in November

Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., participates in a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, in the Capitol’s Old Senate Chamber after the real swear in on the Senate floor on December 17, 2018. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith was sworn into office for the second time in 2018, the result of having won a special election runoff for the seat she had been appointed to earlier this year.

On Monday afternoon, as the Senate started its workweek, Senate President Pro Tempore Orrin G. Hatch administered the oath of office to the Mississippi Republican. In March, Republican Gov. Phil Bryant appointed her to replace Republican Thad Cochran, who resigned. She took the oath of office on April 9 and immediately went about the business of running in November’s special election to fill out the remainder of Cochran’s term. 

Ethics Office Report Released on Lame Duck Rod Blum
House Ethics jurisdiction will expire when Iowa Republican leaves Congress

Outgoing Rep. Rod Blum, R-Iowa, is the subject of an ethics inquery. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Office of Congressional Ethics released its report on allegations against Iowa Republican Rod Blum Monday, while the House Ethics Committee announced that it is continuing its own inquiry, but likely not for long.

The House Ethics panel began the inquiry into Blum in July when it received a referral from the Office of Congressional Ethics and extended the inquiry in early September. In February, the Associated Press reported that Blum violated House ethics rules by failing to disclose his ownership role in a new company and that his top federal staffer was featured in a false testimonial promoting the company’s services.

Unfinished Appropriations Work Piled High as Yuletide Awaits
Avoiding partial government shutdown tops the list

Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard C. Shelby, R-Ala., says he’s ready to take up a stopgap measure tiding lawmakers over until after Christmas, if that’s what it takes. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Welcome to “hell week” on Capitol Hill.

From wrapping up seven of 12 outstanding appropriations bills to enacting a landmark overhaul of criminal sentencing laws, the last week before Christmas is shaping up to be a frantic one — made more difficult by likely absences of lame-duck lawmakers not coming back next year.

In Oversight Role, House Democrats Aim for Both Check and Balance
Investigating the president carries risks for incoming House majority

Incoming House Oversight ranking member Elijah E. Cummings envisions a two-pronged approach to investigating President Donald Trump — focusing on his personal business dealings, including whether they implicate the president’s campaign in colluding with Russia, and probing the “harm” he says Trump has inflicted on the foundations of American democracy. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings has seen the headlines. The 12-term Maryland Democrat, who in January will take control of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, knows he has the power to become President Donald Trump’s worst nightmare. For now, he’s taking a more measured approach.

“A nightmare has to be in the eyes of the beholder,” Cummings said in a recent interview. “If a nightmare comes with me doing my job that I’m sworn to do, so be it.”