POLITICO Playbook: Merry Christmas! – POLITICO

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

THE PRESIDENT is complaining to people he speaks to that the coronavirus/government funding package has too much “pork,” as he says, and the direct payments are too low. The bill has been flown to Florida from Washington for his signature. No one we can find knows if he’ll sign it.

UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS run out Saturday. And the government shuts down Monday.

HERE’S THE SCARY THING: The House is in on Monday — the day the government runs out of spending authority — but the Senate doesn’t come back until Tuesday, which is, of course, after the funding deadline.

WHEN WE SPOKE TO SEN. ROY BLUNT (R-Mo.) on Thursday after he opened the Senate, we said how do you get out of this mess?

“THE BEST WAY OUT OF THIS is for the president to sign the bill. I still hope that that’s what he decides to do,” BLUNT said.

WHAT’S THE NEXT BEST WAY, CNN’s KRISTIN WILSON asked him.

“LET’S HOPE THE BEST WAY works. The second-best way’s a lot more challenging,” BLUNT said.

TAKE A LOOK at the nation’s front pages. President DONALD TRUMP put congressional Republicans in a horrible bind, and they’re getting blamed. … San Diego Union-Tribune: “FEDERAL STIMULUS MEASURE REMAINS IN LIMBO: Republicans in House block effort to advance $2,000 relief checks” … Hartford Courant: “GOP says no to $2K checks” Tampa Bay Times: “$2K checks tie down stimulus”

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “Relief bill’s fate remains up in the air: In U.S. House, calls for $2,000 checks, changes to foreign aid both fail” … Chicago Tribune: “House GOP says no to $2K checks: Virus relief remains stuck in limbo with shutdown looming” … Star Tribune: “Pandemic aid stuck; veto threat mires vote” Dallas Morning News: “House GOP blocks $2,000 aid checks”Houston Chronicle: “On chaotic Capitol Hill, ‘all is not calm’: House GOP blocks $2,000 checks as Trump imperils COVID relief amid looming shutdown”

NATIONAL FRONTS: WaPo: “$2,000 checks blocked by GOP: DEMOCRATS SOUGHT A CHANGE FROM $600 … Trump leaves painfully negotiated bill in disarray” … NYT

TRUMP is in Palm Beach, and VP MIKE PENCE is in Vail, Colo., the tony ski town. Denver Post

TO WIT … President-elect JOE BIDEN to columnists, via MIKE SHEAR of the NYT: “‘My leverage is, every senior Republican knows I’ve never once, ever, misled them. … I’ll never publicly embarrass them.”

ALSO: NDAA will be up Monday in the House for a veto override. Rep. MAC THORNBERRY, the retiring Texas Republican who chairs Armed Services, is urging Republicans to “avoid distortions” of the bill — presumably the distortions from the White House. Connor O’Brien scoops

THIS IS USEFUL! @whpoolreports will chronicle the White House pool reports on a real-time basis.

CLICKER … POLITICO MAGAZINE: “Politico Magazine’s 20 Stories That Explain 2020”

NYT, A1 … PETER BAKER: “For a Defeated President, Pardons as an Expression of Grievance”: “Never mind that Mr. Trump presents himself as a champion of ‘law and order.’ He has been at war with the criminal justice system, at least when it has come to himself and his friends. And so in these final days in office, he is using the one all-but-absolute power vested in the presidency to rewrite the reality of his tenure by trying to discredit investigations into him and his compatriots and even absolving others he seems to identify with because of his own encounters with the authorities.

“In some ways, of course, this is the concession that Mr. Trump has otherwise refused to issue, an unspoken acknowledgment that he really did lose the Nov. 3 election. These are the kinds of clemency actions a president would take only shortly before leaving office.

“But it also represents a final, angry exertion of power by a president who is losing his ability to shape events with each passing day, a statement of relevance even as Mr. Trump confronts the end of his dominance over the nation’s capital.”

— WAPO: “Trump wields pardon power as political weapon, rewarding loyalists and undermining prosecutors,” by Toluse Olorunnipa and Josh Dawsey in West Palm Beach: “[T]he rogues’ gallery of criminals receiving clemency this week showcased Trump’s willingness to exert raw political power for his own personal gain, handing out favors to friends at a time when he is seeking GOP support for his flailing bid to reverse his election loss.”

LOOKING TO JOIN THE PARTY … ANDREW DESIDERIO and ANITA KUMAR: “Snowden allies see opening amid Trump clemency blitz”: “The pardons have started. And they’re not going to stop. Sensing an opening, some of Trump’s closest congressional allies are imploring the president to add one controversial name to his list: Edward Snowden.

“Aware that Trump bypasses the formal pardon process and chooses candidates based on advice from the friends and celebrities in his orbit, several Republican lawmakers have been encouraging the president to offer clemency to Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who caused a firestorm in 2013 when he leaked classified information that exposed the vast underbelly of America’s global spying apparatus.”

WHOA … WAPO’S CAROL MORELLO: “How bad are U.S. relations with Russia? Just try getting a visa for a repairman”: “The deplorable state of relations between Washington and Moscow has gotten so bad that the United States cannot get visas for American technicians to come repair malfunctioning elevators and fire alarms at diplomatic missions.

“The U.S. Embassy in Moscow is understaffed and overstretched, as every individual diplomatic visa requires drawn-out negotiations that get snagged over minuscule matters. Senior diplomats are being tasked with basic tasks like shoveling snow and mixing disinfectants to supplement depleted cleaning crews battling the coronavirus pandemic.”

A NATION IN THE MIDST OF A HEALTH CRISIS …

— LOOK WHO CAME OUT ON TOP … WSJ: “Covid-19 Caused Chaos for Investors in 2020. These Hedge Funds Earned Billions,” by Juliet Chung

— GRIM … L.A. TIMES: “L.A. County records 140 COVID-19 deaths in one day, a new record,” by Soumya Karlamagla, Luke Money and Rong-Gong Lin II

— KATHY WOLFE: “U.S. mandates negative Covid test for flights from the United Kingdom”: “The United States will require airline passengers coming from the U.K. to test negative for coronavirus before flying, the CDC announced Thursday evening, amid reports of the spread there of a new strain of Covid-19 that health authorities believe is significantly more contagious. Passengers will have to test negative within three days before flying and must be denied boarding if they refuse to be tested, the CDC said. The restriction will be put into force as of Dec. 28.”

— WAPO: “The Trump administration wants to take credit for a covid vaccine. Trump supporters are undermining it,” by Elizabeth Dwoskin and Josh Dawsey

THE SEARCH FOR AN A.G. … WAPO: “As Biden zeroes in on attorney general pick, some worry one contender is too moderate on criminal justice issues,” by Matt Zapotosky and Anne Marimow: “[A]s [Merrick] Garland draws increasingly serious consideration, some defense lawyers and criminal justice reform advocates say they worry Garland’s record on the bench shows he is too deferential to the government and law enforcement — and perhaps would not be as aggressive about implementing the kind of dramatic changes they had hoped for. …

“Garland is among three people, all former federal prosecutors, who remain under consideration by Biden for the attorney general job, according to people familiar with the discussions. The others are Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.), who lost his reelection bid, and former deputy attorney general Sally Yates.

“People familiar with the matter said Biden is not expected to make a selection this week and that it is possible that when he reveals his decision, he also will announce picks for deputy attorney general, associate attorney general and solicitor general. These people spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.”

— WSJ: “Biden Attorney General Will Be Greeted With Politically Challenging Inbox of Cases,” by Sadie Gurman

THE PRESIDENT’S CHRISTMAS: Nothing on TRUMP’S or PENCE’S schedules. No events on BIDEN’S or VP-elect KAMALA HARRIS’ schedules either.

TV TONIGHT — PBS’ “Washington Week”: Dan Balz, Errin Haines and Weijia Jiang.

SUNDAY SO FAR …

  • FOX

    “Fox News Sunday”: Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) … Adm. Brett Giroir. Panel: Jason Riley, Kristen Soltis Anderson and Donna Brazile.

  • CNN

    “State of the Union”: Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) … Anthony Fauci … Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer … Reps.-elect Cori Bush (D-Mo.) and Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.).

  • ABC

    “This Week”: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) … Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan … Surgeon General Jerome Adams. Panel: Chris Christie, Heidi Heitkamp, Leah Wright Rigueur and Frank Luntz.

  • CBS

    “Face the Nation”: Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine … Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer … Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde … Scott Gottlieb. Book panel: Susan Glasser, Peter Baker, Jon Meacham and Isabel Wilkerson.

  • Sinclair

    “America This Week”: Brett Favre … Ted Nugent … Phil Robertson.

  • Gray TV

    “Full Court Press”: Boyan Slat … Janice Brahney.

DAVID HERSZENHORN in Brussels: “EU and U.K. wrap up Christmas Eve deal on post-Brexit trade”: “In the end, the hardest Brexit was the one with a deal. After 10 months of fierce bargaining, EU and U.K. negotiators clinched agreement Thursday on a post-Brexit trade deal with historic provisions for zero tariffs and zero quotas on goods.”

SCARY STORY … WSJ: “JPMorgan’s Jamie Dimon and His Brush With Death: ‘You Don’t Have Time for an Ambulance’”: “It was 4 a.m., and the JPMorgan Chase & Co. chief executive dialed up his top lieutenants to deliver a message that couldn’t wait: The economy is in trouble.

“Mr. Dimon hung up the phone and lay down on the couch to read the morning papers. He felt a rip in his chest. He sat up with a gasp and called his doctor. ‘Jamie, take a cab,’ the doctor told him. ‘You don’t have time for an ambulance.’ Hours later, Mr. Dimon was clinging to life, surgeons perched above his chest repairing a gash in the artery that delivers blood from the heart to the rest of the body.”

KATY O’DONNELL: “Biden allies push back on sweeping plan to promote fair housing”: “President Donald Trump accused Joe Biden during the 2020 campaign of seeking to ‘destroy the beautiful suburbs’ by supporting a sweeping Obama-era fair housing rule that Trump had scrapped. Now, with Biden planning to reinstate the rule, he’s likely to run into opposition again — this time from members of his own party.”

JAMES ARKIN and ZACH MONTELLARO: “Democrats shatter fundraising records ahead of Georgia Senate runoffs”: “Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock shattered fundraising records by hauling in more than $100 million each in the past two months, significantly outraising GOP Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler in the final stretch of the two Georgia Senate races that will decide control of the chamber next month.

“The massive fundraising for the two Democrats was driven largely by small-dollar donations, continuing the pattern this year of the party’s Senate candidates tapping into online donors across the country to fund their challenger campaigns, although Democrats underperformed expectations in November despite the fundraising edge.

“Ossoff became the best-funded Senate candidate in history, hauling in $106.8 million in two months. The Democrat spent $93.5 million from Oct. 15 through Dec. 16, and ended that period with $17.5 million in the bank for the closing weeks of the runoff. Perdue, his opponent, raised $68 million over the same time period. The Republican spent nearly $58 million and had $16 million in the bank.”

RON BURKLE has bought the Neverland Ranch. LAT

Send tips to Eli Okun and Garrett Ross at [email protected].

WELCOME TO THE WORLD — Alexander Nazaryan, national correspondent for Yahoo News who will cover the Biden White House after paternity leave, and Maia S. Merin, national director of professional development for Great Minds, welcomed Moses Merin Nazaryan on Wednesday afternoon at Washington Hospital Center. He came in at 7.5 lbs, “in a Mets hat and vintage Mookie Wilson jersey from the Amazins’ ’86 season.” Pic

BIRTHDAYS: Irene Sherman … Karl Rove is 7-0 … Canadian PM Justin Trudeau is 49 … Tim Miller, founder of Light Fuse Communications and contributor to The Bulwark, is 39 … DOJ’s Brian Rabbitt is 38 … Charlton Boyd, associate director for the office of Jared Kushner (h/t Eddie Vasquez) … Bill Bailey, VP of government relations at Walt Disney Co., is 53 … Michelle Altman … Stephanie Mathews O’Keefe, CEO of the International Women’s Forum … Sophia Lalani, defense and foreign policy adviser to Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) … Jeff Seglin (h/ts Jon Haber) … Lewis Lukens … Hilary Krieger, editor for NBC’s THINK opinion section … Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing … New York state Assemblymember and DNC Vice Chair Michael Blake … Rachael Slobodien, COS at the CEA … CNN’s Natalie Pahz … Danny Fisher, VP of government affairs for Associated Equipment Distributors, is 4-0 (h/t Kent Wilson) … Chris Beam …

… Garrett Bess, VP of government relations and comms at Heritage Action (h/t Jessica Anderson) … former CEA Chair Christina Romer, now at Berkeley, is 62 … Steven Luckett … Amanda Munger, president of the AM Group … Lisa Dallos, CEO of High 10 Media … Visa’s Grace Maumbe … Miranda Margowsky, principal at Precision Strategies … Wintta Woldemariam, policy director for House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) … Anne Wall, partner at the Duberstein Group … Dan LeDuc is 6-0 … NYT’s Michael Roston is 43 … Peter Kauffmann … Jonathan Block … Maggie Williams … Elisabeth Hire … Madhu Chugh (h/ts Teresa Vilmain) … Zachary Hastings Hooper is 47 … Mauritian PM Pravind Jugnauth is 59 … Sarah Levin … Scott Cottington … Robert Jameson … Rebecca Pilar Buckwalter-Poza … Christopher Connell … Kristen Shatynski … James Fitzella … Christina Cornell … Dominic Gabello … Wendy Nipper Homeyer