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January 11, 2019

Friday is Day 21 of the partial government shutdown stalemated over President Trump's spurned demand for $5.7 billion for a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico. This gives Trump the dubious distinction of overseeing the longest partial shutdown in U.S. history, tied with a 21-day shutdown during President Bill Clinton's administration. Clinton was widely seen as having won that standoff against House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), which ended on Jan. 6, 1996. But it caused enough damage that no White House or Congress has repeated the feat since. With talks deadlocked, it appears Trump will have the record all to himself by Saturday.

Some 800,000 federal employees are working without pay — including Secret Service agents — or furloughed, like most of the White House staff. Trump is taking the brunt of the blame for the shutdown, polls show, but "lengthy shutdowns can be disastrous for the White House for other reasons," notes Katie Rogers at The New York Times:

The last time a shutdown went on for this long, President Bill Clinton put himself on the long road to impeachment when he approached a young intern named Monica Lewinsky in an empty corner of the West Wing. Nonessential employees had been sent home, unpaid interns were brought in to work, and the rest is bitter history. The Obama administration barred interns from coming to work during a shutdown, and the Trump White House's new class of interns has not yet started, according to a senior official. [The New York Times]

Not allowing interns in during the shutdown would be "a smart move," Leon Panetta, Clinton's chief of staff during the shutdown, told the Times. Peter Weber

11:12 a.m.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders might not be going on Dancing with the Stars like her White House predecessor, Sean Spicer, but she's just lined up a new TV gig of her own.

The former White House press secretary, who announced her resignation in June after almost two years on the job, has been hired by Fox News as a contributor, The Hollywood Reporter reports. She's set to make her debut on Fox & Friends, Trump's favorite morning show, on Sept. 6. In a statement, Sanders said she is "beyond proud" to join Fox's "incredible stable of on-air contributors in providing political insights and analysis."

Sanders being hired by the Trump-friendly network may put the president at ease, as he has in recent months complained about Fox, especially as its news division has conducted polls showing him losing to 2020 Democrats.

"Fox has changed, and my worst polls have always been from Fox," Trump recently said, Deadline reports. “There's something going on at Fox. I'll tell you right now. And I'm not happy with it.”

Trump, who also attacked the network earlier this year over a town hall with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in which moderator Bret Baier was supposedly too "smiley and nice," has been so concerned that The Daily Beast reports he's been "repeatedly" asking various people, "what the hell is going on at Fox?"

Sanders is just the latest former Trump administration official to join Fox. Former White House Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah is currently the Fox Corporation's senior vice president, while former White House Communications Director Hope Hicks is its executive vice president and chief communications officer. Numerous members of Trump's administration are also former Fox News contributors. Brendan Morrow

10:44 a.m.

President Trump has apparently not just been mulling over the idea of adding territory to the United States. He might want to get rid of some, too.

Trump this week abruptly called off a meeting with Denmark over its prime minister's "very not nice" remark that his idea of buying Greenland was "absurd," and The New York Times reports that a potential Greenland purchase has been on the president's mind for "more than a year." He also told his National Security Council to look into it.

But that's not all. The Times reports that last year, Trump "joked in a meeting about trading Puerto Rico for Greenland," as he was "happy to rid himself" of it.

Though not a serious suggestion, Trump's joke may have had a kernel of truth in it, as he has on numerous occasions feuded with Puerto Rico's leaders and labeled them "grossly incompetent." He has, in particular, repeatedly gone after San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, who has slammed his administration's response to Hurricane Maria as a "historic failure." Trump has defended his Maria response and last month praised himself for doing a "great job" while declaring that he is "the best thing that ever happened to Puerto Rico." He added, "I have many Puerto Rican friends." Brendan Morrow

9:51 a.m.

Andrew Yang's 2020 campaign just got a little bit weirder.

The tech entrepreneur has peppered his Democratic presidential run with charmingly odd tidbits about himself, notably promising to be the first "ex-goth" president and constantly reiterating how much he loves math. Yet in a Politico profile published Thursday, Yang let his pectoral muscles do the talking, with slightly disturbing results.

Yang, like his fellow millennials, spent his adolescence and young adulthood working through several phases. To Politico, he described himself as an "angsty" and "brooding" kid who read a lot of sci-fi and listened to a mix of Pearl Jam and Sarah McLachlan. Yang's personality evolved in college at Brown University, where he "started to lift weights, mostly to try to get dates, and was proud to be able to bench press 225 pounds eight to 10 times in a row," Politico writes.

Thus sums up the origin story of "Rex" and "Lex," Yang's right and left pectoral muscles, respectively. And back in college, Yang "could jostle them on command" to make them "talk," he wrote in his 2014 book Smart People Should Build Things. Today, Yang acknowledges, they're "almost mute," though Rex did sputter out a few sentences to Politico: "Andrew, I still have a little bit of voice left. You haven’t fed me in a long time. You used to looooove meeeeeee.'"

Read about more than just Yang's abandoned workout regimen at Politico. Kathryn Krawczyk

8:49 a.m.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has announced an aggressive climate change plan that he tells The New York Times puts "meat on the bones" of the Green New Deal.

Sanders on Thursday unveiled his $16.3 trillion plan, which calls for the U.S. to reach 100 percent renewable energy for electricity and transportation "no later than" 2030, as well as for "complete decarbonization" by 2050. He refers to the plan itself, which would also declare climate change a national emergency, as a Green New Deal.

The senator's plan, the Times notes, is more expensive than that of any other candidate in the race; for comparison, former Vice President Joe Biden has released a climate change plan that calls for spending $1.7 trillion over 10 years. Sanders says his proposal would "pay for itself" in 15 years and create 20 million jobs. He would, among other things, impose new taxes on the fossil fuel industry and eliminate subsidies, which he says would account for $3.1 trillion and be a way of making the industry "pay for their pollution." The plan does not include a carbon tax.

Axios notes that Sanders' plan, though more specific than the Green New Deal, is "more of a vision statement than a pathway for policy that stands much chance of implementation as proposed," with "huge sections" requiring cooperation from Capitol Hill.

"I have seven grandchildren, and I'm going to be damned if I’m going to leave them a planet that is unhealthy and uninhabitable," Sanders told the Times, also saying that "we must be extraordinarily aggressive."

Sanders announced his climate change plan just after Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D), whose campaign was the only one focused entirely on the issue of climate change, left the 2020 race. The Democratic candidates are set to participate in a climate change-centric debate next month. Read more about Sanders' plan at The New York Times. Brendan Morrow

8:27 a.m.

Texas executed Larry Ray Swearingen on Wednesday night for the 1998 murder of 19-year-old Melissa Trotter. The Supreme Court had denied his request for a stay just before 6 p.m. CDT, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) had declined to commute his sentence, and state and federal courts had upheld his conviction. The prosecutor who got Swearingen's conviction, Kelly Blackburn, said he's sure Texas executed the right man, as did Trotter's mother. But Swearingen has maintained his innocence from the beginning, and his defense team has steadily poked holes in the forensic evidence, calling it "junk science."

"Today the state of Texas murdered an innocent man," Swearingen said in a statement released to The Washington Post on Wednesday, before his death. His last words were: "Lord forgive 'em. They don't know what they're doing."

Swearingen was convicted on strong circumstantial evidence, but earlier this month his lawyers presented new evidence suggesting that the key piece of physical evidence — half a pair of pantyhose that prosecutors said matched hose used to strangle Trotter — didn't match. The blood under Trotter's fingernails was from a man but not Swearingen — a state lab technician attested that the blood flakes were probably evidence contamination, though the state lab said earlier this month that the technician had no grounds for that testimony. And experts said Trotter was probably dead no longer than two weeks when hunters found her in the woods; Swearingen had been in jail for three weeks for unpaid parking tickets.

"Larry Swearingen needs to be removed from the annals of history as far as I'm concerned," Blackburn said. "A bad man got what he deserved tonight." Swearingen's attorney, James Rytting, disagreed. "They may put Larry Swearingen under," he said. "But his case is not going to die." Peter Weber

7:44 a.m.

Former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer has some thoughts on the backlash to his Dancing with the Stars casting, arguing that having contestants like himself on the show will actually help "bring the country together."

Spicer spoke in an interview with Mediaite after on Wednesday being announced as one of the cast members of the ABC competition series' latest season, drawing criticism including from host Tom Bergeron. Hours after Spicer's casting was unveiled, Bergeron released a statement slamming the choice and saying he asked the executive producer to avoid "inevitably divisive bookings from any party affiliations" this season.

Spicer now says he hopes that Bergeron changes his mind about this.

"My overall hope is that at the end of this season that Tom looks at this and says, bringing people together of very diverse backgrounds, whether it's in politics or other areas, and allowing them to show America how we can engage in a really respectful and civil way, is actually a way to help bring the country together as opposed to bring it apart," Spicer said.

He also responded to criticism of his hiring from others, such as The New York Times' James Poniewozik, who wrote that booking Spicer would allow him to "tap-dance out of infamy." Spicer said this isn't "what I want" and that he's just going on the show "to enjoy myself and if more people like me, then that's great."

Spicer is the only contestant from the world of politics joining Dancing with the Stars this season, although in the past, some of the eponymous dancing stars have included former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R). The new season, likely to be filled with plenty of awkwardness should Bergeron not have a change of heart about Spicer's ability to "bring the country together" with his tap dancing, will kick off on Sept. 16. Brendan Morrow

7:00 a.m.

Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) announced Thursday morning that he will run for Senate, exactly a week after he dropped out of the crowded Democratic presidential race. "I've always said Washington was a lousy place for a guy like me who wants to get things done — but this is no time to walk away from the table," he said in a video message. "I'm not done fighting for the people of Colorado." Hickenlooper will be the 12th Democrat lining up to unseat Sen. Cory Gardner (R), considered one of the most vulnerable GOP incumbents, and he is expected to enter the race in the top tier. A poll this week found him 13 points ahead of Gardner in a hypothetical matchup. Peter Weber

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