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Senate May Deny Wall, Avert Shutdown

Senate to pass bill that would keep government open, deny Trump wall funding. WaPo: “The Senate intends to pass a short-term spending bill that would keep the government open through Feb. 8 but deny President Trump the money he wants for his border wall, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced Wednesday. The decision would temporarily resolve an impasse over Trump’s demands for wall funding that threatened to provoke a partial government shutdown this weekend, as funding runs out for the Homeland Security Department and a large swath of other federal agencies Friday at midnight. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said Trump has indicated he is supportive, but he said the president could change his mind. McConnell’s announcement comes after the White House signaled Wednesday that it might accept a short-term spending bill. Speaking to reporters, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said that Trump would ‘certainly’ take a look at a short-term funding extension, known as a ‘continuing resolution,’ that would avert a partial government shutdown at midnight Friday if lawmakers and Trump can’t agree on a broader deal. While that approach would concede defeat with Congress just before Democrats take control of the House, Trump insisted again Wednesday that the military could build the wall, a prospect fraught with legal complications.”

Senate Passes Criminal Justice Reform

Senate passes sweeping criminal justice reform bill. NBC: “The Senate passed a huge criminal law reform bill on Tuesday night, seizing on bipartisan support for the broadest set of changes to federal crime statutes in a generation. A rare coalition of conservatives, liberals, activists, prosecutors and defense attorneys — spanning the political spectrum — pushed senators to pass the ‘First Step Act’ by a final vote of 87-12. The House is expected to take up the Senate version of the bill at a later date. The House passed a similar version of the bill back in May by a wide margin, 360-59. President Donald Trump announced in November that he backs the legislation. Supporters of the bill claim that changes passed in the Senate would make America’s criminal justice system fairer, reduce overcrowding and save taxpayer dollars — much to the benefit of drug and non-violent offenders. The bill would not affect state prisons. It only covers federal prisoners, who make up less than 10 percent of America’s prison population.”

U.S. Agrees To Support For Central America

U.S., supporting Mexico’s plan, will invest $5.8 billion in Central America. NYT: “The United States, joining an effort by Mexico, will commit to investing billions in Central America in hopes of ending the poverty, violence and drug-trafficking that are driving thousands of people in the region to undertake the difficult trek to the United States, the State Department announced on Tuesday. Mexico’s new president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, introduced what he called a ‘Marshall Plan’ last week to address the root causes of Central American migration: a $30 billion initiative to invest in the region and welcome migrants into Mexico with visas, health care and employment. On Tuesday, the Trump administration signaled its support for the plan, saying it was committing $5.8 billion in private and public investments in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Much of that amount, however, was previously committed or contingent on the identification of ‘commercially viable projects.’ The promise comes amid tensions between the administration and Mexico over a caravan of migrants traveling from Central America, with President Trump pushing Mexico to allow those seeking asylum in the United States to remain in Mexico while they wait. The United States ‘welcomes the historic commitment by the government of Mexico to development in southern Mexico and to promote our shared goals with the countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras,’ the State Department said in a statement.”

Trump Foundation To Close

Trump Foundation to dissolve amid New York Attorney General’s investigation. NPR: “New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood has announced that the Trump Foundation will dissolve. The foundation was established by Donald Trump well before he ran for president. The news comes as her office continues its investigation into various questions about the foundation’s conduct, including whether the foundation broke the law by coordinating with Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and whether it was truly functioning as a charitable organization. Underwood said her office had detailed ‘a shocking pattern of illegality involving the Trump Foundation — including unlawful coordination with the Trump presidential campaign, repeated and willful self-dealing, and much more. This amounted to the Trump Foundation functioning as little more than a checkbook to serve Mr. Trump’s business and political interests.’ Underwood said the foundation’s decision to shutter was ‘an important victory for the rule of law.’ The foundation agreed to dissolve under the supervision of a judge. Underwood’s office will supervise the disbursement of the foundation’s remaining assets to charities. The New York attorney general’s office will continue its lawsuit against the foundation and is seeking millions in restitution and penalties, and it also seeks to bar Trump and his children from serving on the boards of other New York charities.”

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