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White House Chief of Staff Mulvaney won’t rule out possibility of another shutdown

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By Ben Kamisar

WASHINGTON — Five days ahead of the latest funding deadline, acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said Sunday that he “absolutely cannot” rule out the possibility of another partial government shutdown if Congress doesn’t come to an agreement that includes substantial funding for a border wall.

Mulvaney blamed the uncertainty on congressional Democrats, arguing that Democrats appear torn between the “hard-core left wing,” which sees any funding for President Donald Trump’s signature border wall as a non-starter, and a more moderate faction that appears open to compromise.

“Let’s say the hard-core left wing of the Democrat Party prevails in this negotiation and they put a bill on the president’s desk with, say, zero money for the wall, or $800 million, an absurdly low number. How does he sign that?” Mulvaney said on “Meet the Press.”

“You cannot take a shutdown off the table, and you cannot take $5.7 billion off the table,” he added, referring to Trump’s initial price tag for the wall.

But he said the “most likely outcome” would be that Congress strikes a deal palatable enough to win the president’s signature.

“If you end up some place in the middle, yes, then what you’ll probably see is the president say: ‘Yes, OK. And then I’ll go find the money some place else'” to fully fund a wall.

Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., chairman of the Appropriations Committee, said on “Fox News Sunday” that “talks are stalled” and that there’s a “50/50 chance” that Congress can reach a deal to avoid shutting the government down for the second time in two months.

The wall remains the largest sticking point in these negotiations. Trump still says the wall is necessary. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has so far held firm on her party’s opposition to its funding.

House Democratic leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland accused Mulvaney on Sunday of “threatening another unnecessary and dangerous government shutdown,” calling his remarks “irresponsible and alarming.” He said House Democrats would continue to oppose funding for “a costly and unnecessary wall that does not make us safer or address the humanitarian challenges on our border.”

A senior Democratic aide told NBC News that there are other major debates to be solved, including a Democratic push to trade funding for new border barriers for a limit on Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s detention beds as a way to push back at the administration’s border policies.

Trump pointed to unanswered questions in debates like those while sharing his own skepticism about the chances of a deal in a tweet Sunday morning.

Republicans and Democrats have until Friday to find an agreement thanks to last month’s deal that lifted the historic 35-day partial shutdown.

Even if Congress passes something Trump supports, Mulvaney described any deal as the beginning, not the end, of Trump’s efforts to build the wall he believes is necessary to secure America’s southern border. One option floated by the president and his allies is to declar a national emergency to secure the funding, but it’s unclear whether that would survive a legal challenge.

“The president really does believe that there is a national security crisis and a humanitarian crisis at the border, and he will do something about it. So whether or not he gets $1.6 billion from Congress, whether or not he gets $2.5 [billion] or $5.7 [billion], he’s going to do whatever he legally can to secure that border,” Mulvaney said.

“There are pots of money where all presidents have access to without a national emergency. And there are ones that he will not have access to without that declaration.”

Kelly O’Donnell contributed.



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Trump’s wall prototypes to come down along U.S.-Mexico border

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By Associated Press

SAN DIEGO — The eight border-wall prototypes President Donald Trump inspected during a visit to California in March are going to be torn down to make way for a second barrier separating California and Mexico, the U.S. Department of Customs and Border Protection said Friday.

Construction crews have replaced one layer of fencing along a 14-mile stretch of the border separating Mexico and California. Crews recently started work on replacing and extending a secondary fence as well.

President Donald Trump’s border wall prototypes along the U.S.-Mexico border in California are set to be torn down to make way for secondary fencing.Guillermo Arias / AFP – Getty Images file

Border Patrol Agent Theron Francisco said Friday it isn’t clear when the prototypes will come down but added that the money has already been set aside for their removal.

The San Diego Union-Tribune reported Friday they cost between $300,000 and $500,000 apiece to build.

“There is money already allocated to either take them down or build infrastructure around them. But the decision has been made at the national level to take them down, and the secondary replacement project will take their place,” Francisco said.

Trump declared an emergency last week to shift billions of dollars to fund border wall construction.

The Democrat-controlled House of Representatives is set to vote next week on whether to block that declaration. Some members of the Republican-controlled Senate have indicated it could pass that body as well.

If it does, Trump has promised to veto the measure.

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Grilled by children, Feinstein tries to teach lesson in politics

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By Dennis Romero

U.S. Sen Dianne Feinstein, D-California, isn’t backing the Green New Deal, and she wasn’t shy about letting a group who does support it know it — even if they are children.

A group of schoolchildren visited the senator at her San Francisco office Friday and urged her to get on board with the renewable energy legislation. But the conversation quickly turned into somewhat of a confrontation, and Feinstein has been criticized online for the tone she took. Edited video of the 85-year-old lecturing more than a dozen kids went viral Friday.

One girl implored the senator to back the Green New Deal and argued that the government can afford it. “We have tons of money going to military,” the girl told the lawmaker.

“I’ve been doing this for 30 years,” Feinstein said. “I know what I’m doing. You come in here and you say it has to be my way or the highway. I don’t respond to that.”

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Bigger is not better. Small dollars online are gold for Democrats taking on Trump.

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By Alex Seitz-Wald

WASHINGTON — The most coveted donor for 2020 Democratic presidential candidates may not be a Wall Street financier or Hollywood producer, but a grade school teacher in the Midwest who chips in $25 a month to her favorite candidate.

Small dollars are a bigger deal than ever because they can help organize and engage a large and committed group of supporters who invest more than just money in a campaign.

“Small-dollar donors are going to be a pivotal part of this election, both strategically and practically,” said Erin Hill, executive director of ActBlue, Democrats’ central clearinghouse for online donations. “Small-dollar donors don’t just give — they also vote, volunteer and tell their friends why they care about a candidate.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., proved that his supporters, or at least 225,000 of them, are still committed when he raised a whopping $6 million on Wednesday, the day after launching his presidential campaign.

Rufus Gifford, who served as national finance director for President Barack Obama’s re-election effort in 2012, called the haul “truly remarkable,” noting on Twitter that he was skeptical Sanders could match his 2016 effort: “I was wrong.”

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., announced raising $1.5 million on her first day in the race, while Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said she brought in $1 million in her first 48 hours. The other candidates have not released numbers, but FEC data shows Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., raised about $300,000 online through ActBlue on New Year’s Eve, when she announced her exploratory committee.

Sanders, of course, had a head start thanks to his previous presidential run, which helped him grow a donor pool the size of every other perspective candidate combined, according to a recent New York Times analysis.

But the good news for the rest of the current field of White House hopefuls is that there is now more opportunity than ever for left-leaning candidates to tap into grassroots fundraising — if they know how to.

“As donors get younger and younger, and people get more and more used to the internet, and campaigns get savvier and savvier, there is very real money available,” said Teddy Goff, who was a top digital strategist on presidential runs by Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Goff recalled that as recently as 2012 people would call into the Obama campaign to make sure it was safe for them to donate online.

Now, thanks to Amazon and everything else that Americans do online, digital financial transactions have become second nature. And thanks to President Donald Trump, Democratic voters are eager to open their digital wallets.

In last year’s midterm elections, ActBlue processed more than $1.6 billion in online donations, up from $782 million in 2016 and $335 million in 2014 — a five-fold surge in four years. (Republicans just last month established their answer to ActBlue after years of false starts.)

And as donating online has become frictionless for Democrats, the party has grown increasingly hostile to traditional modes of funding campaigns and to big money in politics.

For the first time, the Democratic National Committee will allow candidates to qualify to take part in the party’s debates if they can secure donations from 65,000 people in at least 20 different states. In the past, only candidates who registered a certain amount of support in the polls were allowed to participate.

“Because campaigns are won on the strength of their grassroots, we also updated the threshold, giving all types of candidates the opportunity to reach the debate stage and giving small-dollar donors a bigger voice in the primary than ever before,” DNC chairman Tom Perez said in a statement announcing the change.

That’s already altering some campaigns’ strategies, with lesser-known candidates like Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, pursuing that path to the debate stage.

Tara McGowan, the founder and CEO of the Democratic digital firm Acronym, said smart campaigns make donors “feel a sense of ownership” in the campaign and give them other meaningful ways to engage, like by volunteering or posting on social media.

“You run the risk of thinking of digital outreach as an ATM for the campaign,” she said. “You’re missing a real opportunity to help amplify your message if you’re not engaging people who are already raising their hand.”

Meanwhile, big donors simply aren’t as valuable as they once were, excluding groups that can take unlimited contributions like super PACs — and almost every major 2020 candidate has sworn off them already.

For Democrats, big checks also can come with a political cost, especially if they’re written by people who work in certain industries that have been targeted by the left, such as finance, fossil fuels and pharmaceuticals.

While large donors may expect something in return for their largesse, from a photo-op with the candidate to an ambassadorship to France, someone who gives $5 is not counting on much more than a feeling of connection to the candidate and solidarity with other small donors.

For instance, Warren has recalled how during her first run for the Senate in 2012, a young man approached her on a subway platform late one night to tell her he was working extra hours to donate to her campaign every month.

“I felt as if he’d hit me with a spear right between the ribs,” Warren wrote in her book, “A Fighting Chance.” “Good Lord — this kid was working until nearly 11 o’clock on a Saturday night and he was sending me money? I smiled weakly and said something along the lines of: ‘Uh, I’m doing OK in the campaign. Maybe you should keep your money. I’ll be fine. Really.'”

But she says he looked back and replied: “No, I’m part of this campaign. This is my fight, too.”

The first big fundraising test for every candidate will come at the end of March, when they have to file their first quarterly reports to the FEC. Early fundraising numbers are heavily scrutinized by party insiders and the media as a sign of a candidate’s strength, and historically they have been a better predictor of success than early polls.

As Democrats fight their primary race and chase small-dollar contributors, they’re not alone.

Trump’s forces have spent more than $4 million on Facebook ads since November alone to expand their list of supporters, and 75 percent of the money his campaign raised in the most recent quarter came from donors who give $200 or less.

“Realistically,” ActBlue’s Hill said, “our nominee is going to need to be primarily funded by grassroots donors in order to beat Trump, who already has widespread small-dollar donor support.”



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