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On the roster: Trump attacks bipartisan dealmakers — 2020 Dems back access to late-term abortion nationwide - The Judge’s Ruling: An American nightmare — Audible: Hail Mary? — Move your feet, lose your seat!

USA Today: “President Donald Trump expressed skepticism Thursday that a congressional committee will agree to his demands for a border wall, raising the specters of another government shutdown or an ‘emergency declaration’ sure to be challenged in court. Tweeting that ‘Republicans on the Homeland Security Committee are wasting their time,’ Trump said that ‘Democrats, despite all of the evidence, proof and Caravans coming, are not going to give money to build the DESPERATELY needed WALL.’ Trump did not specifically cite the prospects of another shutdown or an emergency declaration, but told Republicans ‘I’ve got you covered’ because the ‘wall is already being built, I don’t expect much help!’ He did not elaborate. The tweet came shortly after Trump changed his terms of debate, now insisting he wants a ‘wall’ on the border, not a ‘barrier’ or ‘fence.’ ‘Lets just call them WALLS from now on and stop playing political games!,’ he posted on Twitter.”

Abandons compromise terms on wall vs. fence — Politico: “Trump provided such commentary throughout the day on Thursday. On Twitter, he called the debate between fencing and wall ‘political games’ and insisting that ‘A WALL is a WALL!’ He later told reporters in the Oval Office that [Nancy] Pelosi would be ‘begging’ for a wall if it was removed on the California border in remarks, stirring up yet another conflict with Pelosi after a month of back-and-forth with the Democratic leader. … Pelosi told reporters at her weekly press conference that ‘there’s not going to be any wall money in the legislation’ that the conference committee puts forward. ‘Is there a place where enhanced fencing, Normandy fencing would work? Let them have that discussion,’ Pelosi said. ‘If the president wants to call that a wall, he can call it a wall.’ Trump responded from the White House that he wouldn’t accept a deal from Congress that didn’t contain wall funding, insisting that ‘if there's no wall, it doesn't work.’”

McConnell goes all in to prevent another shutdown — Politico:Mitch McConnell is willing to go big, go small or anything in between to avoid another government shutdown. He’s even willing to appeal to a higher power. … McConnell has made no secret of how much he hates shutdowns, particularly the most recent and historic partial funding lapse. He said Tuesday he’ll probably support ‘whatever works’ to avoid another debacle. He’s considering bills to end shutdowns forever and giving his four GOP conference committee negotiators wide berth to strike a deal with Democrats. GOP senators insist President Donald Trump does not want another shutdown, though the White House has notably refused to rule one out if lawmakers don’t deliver Trump his border wall money. McConnell allies say he’s not girding for confrontation with Trump and is only seeking bipartisan action to stave off a shutdown. But McConnell’s sentiments — reflecting a Senate GOP deeply disturbed by the latest debacle — will make it far more difficult for Trump to close the government again and still maintain party unity.”

“By multiplying the means of gratification, by promoting the introduction and circulation of the precious metals, those darling objects of human avarice and enterprise, it serves to vivify and invigorate the channels of industry, and to make them flow with greater activity and copiousness.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 12

New Yorker: “The invention, now known everywhere as Nashville hot chicken, sounds like a viral novelty, like the cronut, but it long predates Instagram: it became popular more than eighty years ago, in the city’s black community, and the recipe originated with one family, the Princes. … People eat at Prince’s because of the chicken but also because of the story behind it. … In the nineteen-thirties … Thornton Prince III was a handsome pig farmer and fond of women. One Saturday night, he dragged home late, angering his girlfriend. The next day, Prince asked her to make his favorite food, fried chicken. The girlfriend complied, but with a furious twist: she saturated the bird in cayenne pepper and other spices. No doubt, Prince was expected to suffer, and did—but he also enjoyed the experience. He began replicating the spicy fried chicken and selling it on weekends, out of his home.”

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Trump job performance 
Average approval: 41 percent
Average disapproval: 
55.2 percent
Net Score: -14.2 points
Change from one week ago: up 2 points
[Average includes: Quinnipiac University: 38% approve — 57% disapprove; Monmouth University: 43% approve — 53% disapprove; NBC News/WSJ: 43% approve — 54% disapprove; ABC News/WaPo: 38% approve — 58% disapprove; Fox News: 43% approve — 54% disapprove.]

National Review: “Democrats running for president in 2020 haven’t commented on the Virginia abortion bill, but most of them have effectively already told us where they stand, because they have cosponsored the Women’s Health Protection Act, federal legislation that would override state restrictions on third-trimester abortions. Democratic senators who cosponsored the bill during the last Congress include 2020 presidential contenders Kamala HarrisKirsten Gillibrand, and Elizabeth Warren. Potential 2020 Democratic candidates Bernie SandersAmy KlobucharCory Booker, and Sherrod Brown also cosponsored the bill. … The Women’s Health Protection Act would also wipe away informed-consent laws and laws requiring waiting periods for abortions. ‘The basic principle is that there can be no restriction that is not also imposed on a medically comparable procedure. If they single out abortion or reproductive rights, it’s going to fall foul,’ [sponsor Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.] said in 2013.”

‘Draft Beto’ ups pressure on O’Rourke to join 2020 race — Fox News: “A political group that’s urging Beto O’Rourke to run for the Democratic presidential nomination claims support for their push to ‘draft’ the former congressman from Texas is exploding. Will Herberich, one of the co-chairs of Draft Beto 2020, told Fox News his political action committee now has an email distribution list of just under 30,000, and ‘it’s growing fast.’ Herberich was interviewed in Concord, N.H., as Draft Beto held its first organizing event in the state that for a century has held the first primary in the race for the White House. Democratic state lawmakers, activists and operatives packed into the home of a local attorney and party activist to hear the pitch from the group. Draft Beto 2020 was formed in late November, weeks after the three-term congressman narrowly lost his bid to unseat Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas in November’s midterm elections.”

Buttigieg pitches his age as an advantage for presidency — ABC News: “An ‘intergenerational alliance’ is necessary to tackle some of the country's biggest problems, said Pete Buttigieg, the South Bend, Indiana mayor and presidential hopeful. ‘It's not a bad thing to come from a different generation,’ Buttigieg said in an interview on ABC's ‘The View’ on Thursday. … At 37, he is currently the youngest major Democratic candidate to throw his name in the running. … Buttigieg, who has met with former President Barack Obama about his presidential ambitions, would be the nation's first openly gay presidential nominee of a major party. When asked if the country is ready for its first gay president, Buttigieg said, ‘There’s only one way to find out.’”

Harris, Booker to fight over Congressional Black Caucus 2020 support — Politico: “A behind-the-scenes scramble has broken out among Democratic White House hopefuls for support from members of the influential Congressional Black Caucus — a sign of the brewing battle for African-American voters. Two African-American senators, Kamala Harris and Cory Booker, are aggressively courting black lawmakers as they look to build networks in key presidential voting states like South Carolina, Ohio and Michigan. Both showed up at the CBC’s weekly meeting on Wednesday. As Harris worked the room, Booker told at least two members that he would call them afterward, according to sources at the meeting. But Joe Biden could complicate their plans: The former vice president is a longtime ally of the CBC and has been reaching out to veteran black lawmakers to talk about the race, according to multiple members.”

Bloomberg plans to ‘crush’ Trump with data-centric operation — Atlantic:Michael Bloomberg has bigger plans for 2020 than running for president. … While no final decision has been made, his aides have been working on a fallback that only a man worth $40 billion can afford. Bloomberg is pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into a data-centric political operation designed to ensure one goal: crush Donald Trump. Though a budget has not been set, this effort would almost certainly become the biggest and most powerful political organization in the country overnight. It would also be the only real counter to the operation that Trump’s campaign put together in 2016, which reached out to millions of voters in a more targeted, under-the-radar way, and helped deliver the election to Trump by shaping voters’ thinking for months and then activating them on Election Day.”

This week Fox News Senior Judicial Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano weighs in on the FBI’s force when arresting Roger Stone last Friday: “In the current, unreal world — where politics deeply infuse law enforcement — prosecutors use brute force to send a message of terror to innocent defendants. Like all defendants at the time of arrest, Stone is innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. What message does brute force send? It is a message of terror, and it has no place in American life. … As a practical matter, his lawyers must communicate with Mueller's team to address the logistics of pretrial events, as well as their discovery of the evidence in the government's possession. … No innocent American merits the governmental treatment Stone received. … Regrettably, what happened to Roger Stone could happen to anyone.” More here.

Trump says in interview Paul Ryan went back on border wall dealCBS News

Senate advances bill opposing withdrawal of troops from Syria, AfghanistanUSA Today

Herman Cain to be considered for Fed positionCNBC

Harris, Feinstein fume after White House re-nominates two conservative California judgesFox News

Pergram: ‘How the House-Senate Conference Committee aims to avert another shutdown’ Fox News

Report: Russians are using materials from Mueller’s office to discredit investigationNBC News

Rand Paul receives over $580K for damages after neighbor’s attack in 2017AP

“We’re praying for you. Get this done.” – Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said at a meeting with GOP chairmen on Wednesday, according to attendees in the room.

“Conflicts of religion often lead to protracted wars. The pro-life faction has steadfastly held the position that no abortion is acceptable or moral, that every life is sacred from the moment of conception, and that every woman on Earth is bound to this doctrine. There is no middle ground. After Roe v. Wade was decided by the Supreme Court in 1973, a pro-life plan was undertaken to seat justices more favorable to their movement while systematically passing measures through state legislatures insuring Roe’s ‘death by a thousand cuts.’ Waiting periods, ultra-sounds, parental consent, spousal consent, gestational limits, heartbeat laws, perception of pain laws, adoption referral requirements, hospital admitting privilege requirements, defunding Plan Parenthood, laws preventing sex selection or abortion based on genetic testing, and even laws mandating the width of hallways in clinics, were all instituted to delay or prevent abortions. Pro-choice Andrew Cuomo knows this. Challenge his faith if it suits your purpose, but last week Governor Cuomo had the opportunity, with the stroke of his pen, to win the war in his state of New York.  He did what most every Republican pro-life governor has already done or intends to do when given the opportunity. Compromise is futile…” – John Frazier, Oxford, Mich.

[Ed. note: Oh dear… Mr. Frazier, I can see that this issue matters a great deal to you and that the debate has caused you anguish. But I think that you should consider being a little more charitable to your fellow Americans. Less than one in five voters says that abortion should be illegal in every case. A larger minority – something like 30 percent – thinks that abortion should be legal in all cases. But the longstanding majority backs the obvious compromise between the two views: that abortion be legal but only under certain restrictions. It’s hard to poll on the question of what kinds of restrictions are preferable to voters, but there’s a body of evidence that voters tend to recoil from elective late-term abortions, especially in the third term of pregnancy. There are many different definitions for the beginning of life, but there is certainly a broad consensus that choosing to abort a baby that would be viable outside the womb is inhumane. As Cuomo and others work to roll back restrictions on late-term abortions they certainly see themselves as on the cause of right, just as those lawmakers and governors who seek to impose more restrictions in other states. Federalism makes allowances for these different views as we head back to where we were prior to Roe: states vary widely on access to elective abortions. But in the larger discussion, it might help if we focused less of the discussion on characterizing the views of others and more on making the case for the views we each hold.]      

“A few years ago there was a Medicare requirement that the administrative costs for insurance companies that provided Medicare coverage not exceed 10% of the Medical expenses. This resulted in the Medicare providers laying off a number of administrative staff to get to the 10% requirement. I point this out as this seems to conflict with your 40% insurance expenditure stated in your 1/30/19 ‘From the Bleachers.’ I would be interested in hearing where the insurance expenditures actually come from in light of the administrative cost restrictions. I would assume that the administrative cost would include senior staff salaries as well.” – Bill Miller, Doylestown, Ohio

[Ed. note: I see the confusion, Mr. Miller. I was talking about the other side. While insurers face caps on how much money they take in versus pay out, Hospitals, physicians and other care providers sometimes spend as much as 40 percent of their overhead on billing and insurance claims processing. I’d refer you to this very useful NYT piece that drilled down on just how much of our health care costs go processing payments. It’s astonishing. But if you’ve ever looked at a hospital bill, you get an insight on what happens when you put a middleman between fees and services.]  

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SF Gate: “You know the saying: When the cat's away the mice will play. It appears the Bay Area is ready to coin a new turn of phrase: When the rangers are gone the elephant seals will swarm. When tourism decreased and wildlife management staff were furloughed during the government shutdown, an elephant seal colony in Point Reyes National Seashore spread from their normal spot on the beach to an area normally frequented by humans. The seals took over at Drakes Beach, knocking down a fence and moving into the parking lot, and they remained lounging in the sand after the park reopened Sunday, leading staff to close the road from Sir Francis Drake Boulevard to the beach. The park is home to a colony of about 1,500 elephant seals and John Dell'Osso, chief of interpretation and resource education for the seashore, says they tend to frequent Chimney Beach.”

“For the wretched race of beings we surely are, we do, on occasion, manage to soar.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in the Washington Post on July 9, 2015. 

Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.