The government shutdown continues with no end in sight as the border wall funding standoff continues. Trump has apparently considered declaring a state of emergency so he can bypass Congress and access $4 billion in Department of Defense funding to build the wall. In the past, when a president has declared a state of emergency, the Defense secretary then notifies top Congressional leaders, who must signal their approval, but it's possible Trump will find a workaround to this hurdle. Legal experts say Trump's national emergency plan is unlikely to go as smoothly as he expects. The court system has blocked presidents past from taking actions even in a state of emergency. Still, because the military can back construction projects during wartime or in emergencies, Trump may be able to access unallocated funds within the Department of Defense - though it may not be the $4 billion he believes. Despite the ongoing shutdown and the current furlough of 800,000 federal employees, Trump's White House staff members are scheduled to receive a $10,000 pay raise tomorrow.
Meanwhile, the Democratic House is struggling to fight Trump's agenda in a gridlocked Congress. They've introduced multiple spending bills to fund the government and a collection of ethics reform bills, including one that would require Trump to disclose his tax returns covering the past 10 years. None of these bills are expected to survive a Republican-controlled Senate. There's also a standoff over the confirmations of 70 judges that Trump has nominated to the courts, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer at an impasse.
Trump for his part has kept the partisan rhetoric strong; though he's mostly pinned turbulent market performance late in 2018 on Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, he now is saying that the Democratic sweep of midterm elections was behind the volatility -an argument he first made in October 2018. Perhaps predictably, Trump has generally been thrilled to take credit for any market gains and eager to blame his foes for market falters. Meanwhile, the national debt has ballooned $2 trillion in the two-ish years that Trump's been in office.
More quietly, the Trump administration is continuing to push its deregulation agenda by considering a rollback of enshrined civil rights law that guards against discrimination in housing, transportation, education, and other arenas. A source indicated that the Trump administration issued a memo to Justice Department employees ordering them to conduct an assessment of how "disparate impact" rules could be curtailed or cut altogether, and to detail what impact these changes may have.
In more bizarre news, Trump this week during a cabinet meeting put a poster on the table. The table showed a picture of Trump, along with the phrase, "SANCTIONS ARE COMING NOVEMBER 4," a reference to the HBO series "Game of Thrones" that Trump used in November on Twitter to announce his Iran sanctions. The poster was apparently not discussed at the meeting, nor was its presence subsequently explained.