TRUMP PONDERS DECLARING NATIONAL EMERGENCY: President Trump said he was considering declaring a national emergency to build a southern border wall if Congress doesn’t fund it, following a Friday meeting with congressional leaders that both Mr. Trump and Democratic lawmakers described as contentious (Wall Street Journal). It isn’t clear how Mr. Trump would fund a wall under that scenario, and Mr. Trump would almost certainly face legal challenges if he were to attempt such a move. Mr. Trump, speaking to reporters in the Rose Garden following the nearly two-hour meeting, also sounded upbeat notes on the state of negotiations with Democrats over the partial government shutdown, and said high-level talks would continue this weekend. Mr. Trump said he hoped the shutdown “doesn’t go on even beyond a few more days,” but also said he told congressional leaders that the shutdown could last for months or even years if Democrats don’t agree to fund the border wall.

TRUMP SAYS HE'S THE BEST PRESIDENT ... EVER: President Trump in the Rose Garden yesterday (Axios): "Well, you can’t impeach somebody that’s doing a great job. That’s the way I view it. I’ve probably done more in the first two years than any president, any administration, in the history of our country."

TRUMP MISINFORMATION GROWS: With the departure of White House chief of staff John Kelly, the misinformation emanating from President Trump has only escalated. Alumni of this White House see a possible reason: Although Kelly was thwarted in many of his efforts to control the president, one place he made authentic inroads was clamping down on the paper flow to the Oval Office (Allen, Axios). "Anyone who circumvented that process was going to have a serious problem," said a former official who saw the transformation up close. "It has devolved into anarchy," added another alumnus of Trump's White House. Wednesday was Kelly's last formal day in the White House, but his influence had declined since he announced his departure on Dec. 8. Since then, Trump has made several unusually specific factual assertions that were quickly shown to be inaccurate, suggesting more unvetted information may be reaching him than had been the case in the heyday of Kelly's control: Arguably the most notable one ... During Wednesday's devil-may-care, 95-minute Cabinet meeting, Trump said that back in 1979, the Soviet Union had invaded Afghanistan "because terrorists were going into Russia. They were right to be there." A Wall Street Journal editorial scolded: "We cannot recall a more absurd misstatement of history by an American President." Walls as a weapon ... Trump tweeted last Sunday: "President and Mrs. Obama built/has a ten foot Wall around their D.C. mansion/compound." The WashPost reported: "Obamas' neighbors [said] there is no such wall. The 8,200-square-foot structure, despite several security features, is completely visible from the street."  Also during the Cabinet meeting, per the N.Y. Times, "Trump mocked India for doing no more in Afghanistan than building a library, which generated ... head scratching [in New Delhi] because, according to Indian news media, the country has not built a library in Afghanistan in many years." And then there's the president's depiction of how tariffs work. "China is paying us tremendous tariffs. We’re getting billions and billions of dollars of money pouring into the Treasury," he said Friday at a Rose Garden news conference. The N.Y. Times points out: "The United States does not send China a bill for the cost of tariffs, which are often passed on to American importers or consumers."

BRAUN SUGGESTS SHUTDOWN COULD BE LENGTHY:  Indiana's newest senator says the government shutdown could be a long one (WIBC). President Trump says he's prepared to keep the shutdown going for months or years. Republican Senator Mike Braun says the fact Congress did pass some spending bills on time makes the stalemate harder to break, because people don't feel the impact. The Pentagon and five other Cabinet departments are fully funded through the end of the fiscal year, and tasks classified as "essential" are allowed to continue even without funding. Braun says that means only about 10% of the federal budget is affected. 800-thousand federal employees aren't getting paid during the shutdown, but there hadn't been a missed payday until Friday. And the closure of agencies has been staggered, as some departments were able to run through reserves before closing their doors. If the shutdown drags on, though, it could delay tax refunds and food stamps. Braun has supported the wall, and says there are spots on the border where it's clearly the best approach. But he says the symbolism of the wall makes it hard for either side to compromise without being seen as caving in. He says opponents view the wall as a "stigma," while supporters see it as a declaration that the government has failed to take border security seriously before, and finally is.

BRAUN ASSIGNED TO BUDGET, AG COMMITTEES: U.S. Senator Mike Braun announced his assignment to serve on the following committees: Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry Committee; Committee on the Budget; Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions; Environment & Public Works Committee; Special Committee on Aging (Howey Politics Indiana). “I am ready to get to work for Hoosiers fixing the broken system in Washington, and these committees provide a great opportunity to apply my real world experience to delivering solutions for Hoosiers,” said Senator Mike Braun.  “Agriculture will help me stand up for Hoosier farmers, Aging gives our seniors a voice in Washington, EPW provides an opportunity to tackle our crumbling infrastructure, HELP covers critical areas like workforce development and a chance to fix our broken healthcare system, and on Budget I will work to find solutions for our national debt and out-of-control spending that has been ignored for too long in Washington.”

PENCE HOSTS SHUTDOWN TALKS: With many federal workers frozen out of the jobs and vacationers blocked from public attractions their tax dollars pay for, talks between White House officials and congressional aides kicked off Saturday aimed at ending a government shutdown that President Donald Trump has said could last years (AP). In what has become a winter of discontent, negotiations are at an impasse over Trump's demands for $5.6 billion to fund a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border. Trump, who was not expected to participate in the discussions hosted by Vice President Mike Pence in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, spent the morning tweeting about border security. Showing little empathy for the hundreds of thousands furloughed or working without pay, Trump declared — without citing evidence — that most are Democrats. He also asserted: "I want to stop the Shutdown as soon as we are in agreement on Strong Border Security! I am in the White House ready to go, where are the Dems?"

PENCE WON'T ACCEPT PAY RAISE: Vice President Mike Pence says he won't accept a $12,800 pay raise he is poised to receive despite the government shutdown (IndyStar). A pay freeze for top executive officials is set to expire this weekend unless Congress acts to extend it. But Pence told reporters at the White House Friday that he will not accept it. Meanwhile, most federal workers aren't collecting paychecks amid the partial government shutdown. Just days ago President Donald Trump also signed an executive order to freeze most federal workers' pay at 2018 levels once they start receiving paychecks again. White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said the pay increase is an "unnecessary byproduct of the shutdown." "The Administration is aware of the issue and we’re exploring options to prevent this from being implemented while some federal workers are furloughed," Sanders said. "Congress can easily take care of this by funding the government and securing our borders.”

SEN. TALLIAN PROPOSES ELECTORAL COLLEGE CHANGE: Twice in the past two decades, and five times in the history of the United States, a presidential candidate has won the White House despite his opponent receiving more votes from the American people (Carden, NWI Times). State Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Ogden Dunes, wants to change that, so the will of the voters is superior to the quirks of the Electoral College. Tallian is proposing in Senate Bill 212 that Indiana join Illinois and the 11 other states that have signed on to the National Popular Vote Compact. Under the compact, which is authorized by the U.S. Constitution's provision for interstate agreements, Indiana's electoral votes automatically would be awarded to the national popular vote winner, regardless of which presidential candidate got the most votes in Indiana. The compact is due to take effect once its state members have 270 electoral votes, the minimum needed to elect a president. States that already have joined the compact hold 172 electoral votes. Adding Indiana's 11 votes would leave just 87 electoral votes to go. "The idea is to get past that stranglehold that the Electoral College has on our popular vote," Tallian said. State Sen. Greg Walker, R-Columbus, chairman of the Senate Elections Committee, sees things differently. He believes, "Indiana and other smaller states become flyover territory if the national campaigns can focus their attention on merely the population centers." "The campaigns would rarely set foot in Indiana again," Walker said. "I respect Sen. Tallian but disagree with the goals of the compact."

CHINA MAKES SOY PURCHASE AHEAD OF TALKS: China is making more purchases of U.S. soybeans this week ahead planned trade talks in Beijing between the U.S. and China next week. China’s biggest food company was asking for prices Wednesday (Hoosier Ag Today). The alleged purchases come after the most recent buy just before Christmas when China purchased roughly 1.2 million metric tons of U.S. soybeans, according to data provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. However, data on the latest expected sales may not be published, as much of USDA is closed as part of the government shutdown. Sales of other commodities are expected to China, as well. Arlan Suderman of INTL FCStone told Bloomberg News China could seek U.S. corn this month, but the market has not seen confirmation. Suderman notes “Supplies are ample, but the balance sheet would quickly tighten if China re-enters the market with significant purchases.”

MANY UFO SIGHTINGS AT KOKOMO, PERU: More than 40 UFO sightings from across Howard County have been reported to a national research center since the mid-1990s, according to a database published late last year (WTHR-TV). The Associated Press released the database in December outlining sightings collected by the National UFO Research Center, an investigative organization based in a decommissioned U.S. Air Force ICBM base in eastern Washington. In total, 41 reports from Kokomo were collected by the center, also known as NUFORC, from 1996 to 2017. Two more were received from Greentown. Meanwhile, 19 UFO sightings were reported in Peru. Tipton had just two UFO reports. It’s the latest chapter for an area that has received national attention in past years for a 2008 boom that left law enforcement searching for a nonexistent downed aircraft; a persistent hum that some residents say caused mysterious health problems; and its role in Project Blue Book, an inquiry into unidentified flying objects by the U.S. Air Force that ran from 1952 to 1969. Declassified government documents posted online show at least eight Kokomo sightings reported to the Air Force as part of Project Blue Book. Each was ultimately given a credible explanation by government officials. Explanations sometimes referenced activity at Bunker Hill Air Force Base – now called Grissom Air Reserve Base – and other regular aircraft movement. Similar conclusions have been given to more recent controversies.

HPI DAILY ANALYSIS: As we've noted before, Vice President Mike Pence has virtually no relationships with Capitol Hill Democrats, and yet he appears to be the point man for the administration on the shutdown talks. Politico Playbook reports there were "close to 50 people in the room Saturday for the wall negotiations. These deals are usually cut in rooms with a handful of people. There is no way to get a deal like this done in such a big group." And no one seems to know what President Trump really wants. My question: Is this any way to run a government? Would we tolerate city halls or county courthouses or the Indiana Statehouse operating in this manner? I think not. And the acquiescence and silence from the Indiana congressional delegation is deafening. - Brian A. Howey


TERRE HAUTE MAYOR BENNETT TO SEEK 4TH TERM: Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett this afternoon announced he will seek election to a fourth term (Terre Haute Tribune-Star). “During my entire time in this office we have worked very hard to make Terre Haute a better place," the mayor said in an emailed announcement. "In spite of a significant loss of property tax revenue we have eliminated several fund deficits, have a balanced budget and have still continued to invest in our community." The mayor cited completing the wastewater treatment plant upgrade, getting the railroad overpass built at 19th Street and Margaret Avenue, progress on crime rates and developing working relationships with other elected officials as major achievements during his past three years in office. “I am honored to be able to serve this community as mayor and my focus will continue to be on public safety, infrastructure investments, economic development activities and improving the quality of life for our citizens," Bennett said. Bennett, a Republican, will have competition First-term Councilman Karrum Nasser, D-3rd, announced in November his plans to seek the Democratic nomination for mayor. Pat Goodwin, a former city engineer, is seeking the mayor's office as an independent.

SEN. ROBERTS TO RETIRE: Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) announced Friday that he will retire in 2020 instead of running for reelection (Politico). Roberts, 82, has served four terms in the Senate. His retirement has already sparked interest in his seat from a number of other Kansas Republicans, heralding a potentially crowded 2020 primary — though Democrats hope they can make the race competitive after winning the governorship in 2018.

Sunday Talk

PELOSI TAMPS DOWN IMPEACHMENT TALK: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) sought to quell a rising furor Sunday over whether Democratic lawmakers will seek to impeach President Trump, saying in an interview on CBS News’s “Sunday Morning” that the public has yet to hear the conclusions of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation. Democrats are unlikely to pursue a path of impeachment without Republican backing, Pelosi hinted. That could hinge significantly on whether Mueller’s probe uncovers concrete evidence of wrongdoing. “If and when the time comes for impeachment,” she said, “it will have to be something that has such a crescendo in a bipartisan way.”

MULVANEY OFFERS DEMS STEEL FENCE: Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said Saturday that President Trump’s willingness to “take a concrete wall off the table” is proof of Trump’s “desire to try and resolve” the government shutdown. Speaking during an interview on "Meet the Press" set to air Sunday, Mulvaney said that Trump has told Democrats he'd settle for a steel fence on the border instead of the concrete wall he's long described as his vision. “That came up the other day in the private meeting with the ‘Big Eight’ as they call the leaders in the House and the Senate—Republicans, Democrats—that he was willing to agree, and he mentioned this again at the Rose Garden press conference, to take a concrete wall off the table,” Mulvaney said during an interview with “Meet the Press” set to air in full on Sunday. Mulvaney went on to call the proposal “evidence of our willingness to solve the problem.” “If he has to give up a concrete wall, replace it with a steel fence in order to do that so that Democrats can say, ‘See? He’s not building a wall anymore,’ that should help move us in the right direction.”

SARAH SANDERS SAYS 'TERRORISTS' COMING THROUGH BORDER: Fox News host Chris Wallace challenged White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on some of President Trump’s claims about border security. In an interview with Sanders on Sunday, Wallace took on the claim, made by Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, that thousands of “special interest aliens” have been stopped at the border. “But special interest aliens are just people who have come from countries that have ever produced a terrorist, they’re not terrorists themselves,” Wallace said. He also cited a State Department report saying that there has been no “credible evidence” of terrorists crossing the southern border from Mexico. Sanders stood by the claim, saying that the southern border is the “most vulnerable point of entry.” “We know that, roughly, nearly 4,000 known or suspected terrorists come into our country illegally, and we know that our most vulnerable point of entry is at our southern border,” she said, before Wallace cut her off. “Do you know where those 4,000 people come, where they are captured?” Wallace responded. “Airports … the state department says there hasn’t been any terrorists found coming across the southern border.” Sanders then suggested that an “influx” of “terrorists” would flow through the border without increased security, such as Trump’s proposed border wall.

CHAIRMAN SAYS TRUMP CAN DECLARE EMERGENCY: House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Smith, D-Washington, said President Donald Trump does have the authority to call a national emergency over border security, but is “wide open” to facing a court challenge. “Unfortunately, the short answer is yes. There is a provision in law that says the president can declare an emergency. It's been done a number of times. But primarily it's been done to build facilities in Afghanistan and Iraq," Smith told George Stephanopoulos on “This Week” on Sunday. "In this case, I think the president would be wide open to a court challenge saying, ‘where is the emergency?' You have to establish that in order to do this. But beyond that, this would be a terrible use of Department of Defense dollars."

HOYER SEES STALEMATE: Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer Sunday signaled that there's little hope for an end to the government shutdown as both sides continue to hold firm on the fate of funding for President Donald Trump's border wall. Appearing on "Meet the Press," Hoyer, the Maryland Democrat who is the second-highest ranking Democrat in the House caucus, cited a list of Republicans who have questioned the need for a wall on the southern border in the past, arguing that even GOP members of Congress don't believe it is a smart use of federal dollars. And he accused both Republicans and Trump of holding federal employees "hostage" in the hopes of getting Democrats to acquiesce to a border wall plan the president hasn't fully explained. "We don't think the wall is good technology to do the objective," Hoyer said. "The administration has not come up with any specific plan as to how they are going to spend this money."

SCHIFF TO PROVIDE MUELLER TRANSCRIPTS: House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said Sunday that he plans to move quickly to provide the panel's interview transcripts to special counsel Robert Mueller. "We hope, as one of our first acts, to make the transcripts of our witnesses fully available to special counsel for any purpose, including the bringing of perjury charges if necessary against any of the witnesses," the California Democrat told CNN's Jake Tapper on "State of the Union." Schiff declined to name who among the committee's witnesses he believed might have committed perjury, but he said he had concerns about "multiple witnesses."  "I think Bob Mueller, by virtue of the fact that he has been able to conduct this investigation using tools that we didn't have in our committee, meaning compulsion, is in a better position to determine, OK, who was telling the truth, who wasn't, and who could I make a case against in terms of perjury?" Schiff said.

GRAHAM CITES 'RADICAL LEFT' IN SHUTDOWN TALKS: Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Sunday said there will not be progress on negotiations to end the partial government shutdown "as long as the radical left is in charge."  Graham suggested during an interview on CBS's "Face the Nation" that Republicans are being forced to negotiate with Democrats who are being unreasonable in their demands. "We’re having to negotiate with people who want to abolish ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement], not support ICE. We’re having to negotiate with people who see border patrol agents gassing children, rather than defending our borders as professional law enforcement officers," Graham said.  "And we’re negotiating with people who will ... accuse all of us who support a wall as part of border security as racists. As long as the radical left is in charge, we’re not going to get anywhere," he added.

COLLINS SAYS SENATE SHOULD VOTE TO REOPEN: Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said Sunday that she would support holding a Senate vote on bills passed in the House to reopen parts of the government unrelated to negotiations over funding for President Trump's wall along the southern border. Collins said on NBC's "Meet the Press" that she understands Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is in a difficult spot because the president may not sign bills passed by the Democratic-held House, but pressed for a vote to reopen agencies like Agriculture, Interior, Transportation and Housing and Urban Development. "I’m frustrated in the situation that we’ve gotten to this point where both sides appear to be intransigent," Collins said. "It is not a sign of weakness to figure out a middle ground. I think that both sides need to indicate a willingness to listen and to compromise."

FROSH CALL IMPEACHMENT CALLS 'PREMATURE': A group of freshman House members on Sunday said it's too early for Democrats to pursue impeachment against President Trump. Rep. Jahana Hayes (D-Conn.), during a panel on CBS's "Face the Nation," described impeachment talks as "premature." "The gravity of that word is too big and too important to just throw it around," Hayes said. Rep. Colin Allred (D-Texas), another member of the panel, called it "absolutely premature" to consider impeachment and said special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia needs to "run its course."

General Assembly

HOUSE GOP TO OUTLINE PRIORITIES ON MONDAY: House Speaker Brian C. Bosma (R-Indianapolis) and additional members of the House Republican Caucus will have a press conference at 10:30 a.m. on Monday where they will formally announce their 2019 legislative priorities (Howey Politics Indiana).

HOW KEY ISSUES ARE UNFOLDING: The work of the Indiana General Assembly begins in earnest this week as lawmakers approach Thursday's deadline for filing legislative proposals, and House and Senate committees begin meeting to evaluate them (Carden, NWI Times). Altogether, more than 1,200 suggested new laws are expected to be submitted by the 100 representatives and 50 senators serving in the Republican-controlled chambers. Here's a look at some of the major issues set to dominate the 2019 General Assembly:

Budget — Put simply, there doesn't appear to be enough money for everything that Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb and Republican legislative leaders want to do, let alone funding the other priorities for rank-and-file lawmakers of both political parties. The December state revenue forecast estimated that Indiana will have $828.8 million in new revenue for the two-year, roughly $32 billion budget set to be approved this session.  House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, last week said he thinks it may be possible to fund teacher pay hikes by reducing appropriations for some state agencies, without specifying how they will maintain services following the cuts. "It will be a tight budget year," he acknowledged.

Gaming — Gary's plans to open Buffington Harbor for development as an intermodal transit and warehousing center require the Majestic Star casinos be moved to a different location. The city wants the casino to become a new attraction adjacent to the Borman Expressway; competing Region casino operators and municipal leaders aren't keen on that idea. The Majestic Star's two boats currently operate on two gaming licenses, one of which wouldn't be needed at a single, land-based facility. Already, officials from Hammond, Portage and Terre Haute have expressed interest in the second license. That's certain to become a point of contention during the legislative session and possibly interfere with plans to legalize sports wagering in Indiana.

Bias crimes — Holcomb and many in the state's business community are seeking to remove Indiana from the list of five states lacking a bias crime statute, sometimes called a hate crime law.

School safety — With a tight state budget, there likely will be no more than $14 million made available again for school safety grants, forcing some districts that want to better secure their buildings or hire safety officers, to borrow from the state's Common School Fund or seek voter approval for a property tax hike. Lawmakers also are expected to consider arming teachers to directly confront potential threats.

Marijuana — State Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Ogden Dunes, is leading the charge to legalize and regulate either medicinal or recreational marijuana, in light of overwhelming public support and recent voter approval for legalization in Michigan. Gov. Holcomb said he opposes legal marijuana in Indiana so long as it's considered by the federal government to be an addictive drug with no medical use.

Abortion — Anti-abortion advocates want Indiana to be first to potentially outlaw abortion by enacting a statute prohibiting the procedure and fighting for the law all the way to U.S. Supreme Court, where a new conservative majority might be inclined to legitimize it. Nearly all of Indiana's incremental abortion restrictions enacted this decade have been deemed unconstitutional by federal courts.

Voting — Democrats in both chambers are proposing numerous measures to make it easier for Hoosiers to vote, and to bar Republicans from drawing new legislative district boundaries following the 2020 U.S. Census to advantage GOP candidates. Similar efforts in prior sessions quickly faltered, though this year multiple advocacy groups have taken on the cause of ending gerrymandering.

REP. LAUER FILES PUBLIC CORRUPTION BILL: The new lawmaker in the Indiana General Assembly representing Columbus is wasting no time in seeking changes in state government (Webber, Columbus Republic). State Rep. Ryan Lauer, R-Columbus, filed House Bill 1192 — a measure to toughen penalties for any Indiana public servant convicted of felony theft, on the first day of the 2019 session on Thursday. Under the proposal, any public servant in Indiana entrusted with tax dollars convicted of felony theft by stealing more than $750 in public funds would be required to serve at least 30 days in jail, Lauer said. Five township officials in Bartholomew County have been investigated for financial improprieties in the last four years. They include former Rockcreek Township trustee David E. Buzzard, 2017; former Clay Township Trustee Rebecca A. “Becky” Smith, 2017; former Wayne Township Trustee Clint Madden, 2016; and former Clay Township Trustee Christa K. Acton and Deputy Trustee Laurie L. Baker, 2014. While Lauer did not wish to say whether any of those high-profile cases motivated him to file the legislation, the former Bartholomew County Council president did say too many public officials are not adequately punished after being convicted of stealing public funds. “It boils my blood,” Lauer said. “It’s something I’ve had on my mind for some time now.”


LAHR REJOINING COATS AT NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: As the 116th Congress began today, Congressman Jim Banks (IN-03) made two staff announcements in his Washington office that serves Indiana’s Third District (Howey Politics Indiana). David Keller has been promoted to Chief of Staff. Keller is a Fort Wayne native and served as Deputy Chief of Staff for Banks during the 115th Congress. Keller has worked on multiple Indiana political campaigns, served as campaign manager for Banks during his 2016 campaign and formerly served as an administrator at Abundant Life Church in Fort Wayne. Keller will replace outgoing Chief of Staff Matt Lahr, who is leaving at the end of the week for a new position with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. “Matt has been an invaluable partner to me over the past two years, and we wish him the best as he begins a new position in government service,” said Banks. “No one knows northeast Indiana better than David Keller, and I am excited for him to bring his passion and talents to this important role. David is committed to serving Hoosiers with excellence, and I look forward to building on what we have accomplished during my first term in office.” Banks also announced that T.W. Arrighi has been hired as his Communications Director. Arrighi formerly worked for Representatives Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) and Mimi Walters (R-Calif.).

BUCSHON CITES DEM 'SHOW VOTE': House Democrats passed a spending bill that would have ended the government shutdown last night, but it was killed the moment it reached the Senate, where Republicans are in control (WIBC). New House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says they will not give President Trump the 5-billion he wants for a border wall.  Indiana's Republican Congressman Larry Bucshon (R-IN-08) voted against the bill last night saying without the border wall money the shutdown will continue. "The president has been very clear that securing the border, which includes sufficient funding for a border wall, is a non-negotiable priority," Bucshon said. "The Democrats put up a show vote. It's a bill that President Trump won't sign and it's a bill that Senator McConnell won't bring up (in the Senate). "Democrats want to put up show votes. I understand that, but the fact of the matter is their refusal to listen to fact and put money to secure the border and defined the country is the reason why I voted against it and it's the reason the shutdown continues."

FRESHMAN'S OBSCENE SPEECH UPENDS DEM STRATEGY:  Impeachment was always going to hang heavily over a divided Washington. But it took little more than 24 hours this week for a freshman House Democrat’s exuberant, expletive-laden impeachment promise to upend the bonhomie of a new Congress and prompt President Trump, by his own telling, to ask the newly elected speaker if Democrats planned to impeach him (New York Times). The episode began Thursday night, just hours after the 116th Congress was sworn in, when a camera captured Representative Rashida Tlaib of Michigan promising profanely to impeach Mr. Trump as she drew cheers from liberal activists at a celebration at a bar near the Capitol. By the time Mr. Trump discussed the matter directly in a news conference in the Rose Garden on Friday afternoon, weeks of speculation about his potential peril had burst into the open. Republicans, eager to portray Democrats as out to destroy Mr. Trump’s presidency, piled on criticism of Ms. Tlaib — some of it racially tinged. (Ms. Tlaib, who is Palestinian-American, is one of the first Muslims in Congress. The Christian Broadcasting Network referred to her as a “foul-mouthed Islamic congresswoman.”)


SBA: CONCERNS CITED IN 3 NW CHARTER SCHOOLS - A series of independent audits made public at the end of 2018 by the Indiana State Board of Accounts warned of financial stress in three Lake County charter schools (NWI Times). The three schools — Thea Bowman Leadership Academy in Gary, the Higher Institute of Arts and Technology in Merrillville and East Chicago Urban Enterprise Academy — were all found "likely to continue as a going concern," despite the schools' recent negative cash flows and declines in enrollment. The financial audits, compiled by Indianapolis-based Donovan CPAs, analyzed net assets, functional expenses and cash flows for the schools' financial years ending in June 2017 and June 2018.

VETERANS: NEW RULES FOR AGENCY - Indiana officials have approved new rules to rein in the state's veterans' affairs agency after its leader resigned amid reports he awarded grants intended for struggling veterans to the department's own employees (AP). The rules impose income limits and other restrictions that likely would have prevented the Indiana Department of Veterans' Affairs from awarding more than $40,000 to nearly a dozen middle-income employees. The Indiana Veterans' Affairs Commission voted Thursday to formally adopt the rules. The department's leader, James Brown, resigned last month following reports he awarded money to veterans who worked under him that was intended to go to veterans struggling to make ends meet. Brown's resignation came after The Indianapolis Star and WRTV-TV questioned the agency's administration of Indiana's Military Family Relief Fund, which was created in 2007 to aid veterans facing financial hardship. Brown denied wrongdoing. The $1.7 million annual program is funded with fees from specialty veteran license plates, but a lack of rules allowed Brown, a decorated Vietnam veteran, to award grants to his employees.

EDUCATION: SHUTDOWN HAS MINIMAL IMPACT ON IU RESEARCH - Indiana University officials say the partial government shutdown will only marginally affect federally-funded research efforts (Indiana Public Media). IU Spokesperson Chuck Carney says most agencies funding the projects already have their budgets in place. “The impact on IU to this point has been fairly negligible and the reason for that is that we have the distributed moneys that would have come from the grants from these agencies,” he says. The National Institutes of Health is the university’s largest granting agency. It’s open, despite the shutdown. The NIH operates on a separate budget agreement and most funds were already allocated and distributed. Carney says other small impacts might occur on an individual faculty basis. University researchers may not receive funding approval from agencies until they reopen.

DNR: SHUTDOWN IMPACTS INDIANA DUNES - Like other national parks around the country, the government shutdown has impacted Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore in northwest Indiana (Indiana Public Media). Indiana Dunes Tourism promotions director Dustin Ritchea says many programs have been cancelled. “We are disappointed to see any type of government shutdown especially the national parks service which is an integral part of the Indiana Dunes area,” says Ritchea. Park visitor services, contact stations and maintenance are also impacted.  All of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore rangers have been furloughed except for security staff. Ritchea says visitors still have access to sites within the local 15,000-acre National Lakeshore. “They have full access to its paths, the shoreline, and the Indiana Dunes Visitors Center is still actually staffed by employees of Indiana Dunes Tourism -- so we are open as well” says Ritchea.

DNR: 2019 PHOTO CONTEST ANNOUNCED - The Indiana Division of Historic Preservation & Archaeology (DHPA) is once again asking the public for photos for its annual Historic Preservation Month photo contest. DHPA works to preserve buildings and the built environment, and is looking for photos to celebrate that effort. Specifically the division is photos of something that has been preserved, is in the process of being preserved, or desperately needs to be preserved. The subject in the photo must be in Indiana and at least 50 years old. The image must show something that was designed and/or built. Send an 8x10 inch matted image, along with the registration form by April 5. The link for the registration form is below. Photographs can be color or black and white, and there is a separate category for digitally enhanced photos. The basic requirements are: Images must be 8x10 inch prints, mounted or matted on or with a white 11x14 matte board. The registration form must be attached to each photo. Limit of three photos per person.  For a complete list of guidelines and the registration form click here. To view all DNR news releases, please see


WHITE HOUSE: TRUMP SAYS SHUTDOWN COULD END, OR LAST LONG TIME - President Trump spoke to reporters as he left the White House to go to Camp David for a meeting with his senior staff (Politico Playbook). Trump said they are expected to discuss North Korea, trade negotiations with China and the border wall. On the shutdown: "It's a very important battle to win," Trump said, via pooler Cameron Joseph of Talking Points Memo. "This wall will pay for itself many times over the course of this year ... Most importantly it's about safety." He added: "You think I like doing this? I don't like doing this." HE ALSO SAID: "Everybody's playing games but I'll tell you this, I think the Democrats want to make a deal. ... This shutdown could end tomorrow or it also could go on for a long time." On declaring a national emergency: "I may decide a national emergency depending on what happens over the next few days." The president also confirmed he would be giving the State of the Union on Jan. 29.

WHITE HOUSE: TRUMP CAN 'RELATE' TO UNPAID UNPAID FED WORKERS - President Trump said Sunday he can "relate" to federal workers who haven't been paid during the partial government shutdown, which has lasted 16 days and counting, but insisted that the budget impasse is "a very important battle to win" (The Hill). Trump spoke to reporters outside the White House before departing for Camp David for a meeting with advisers and other administration officials. The president repeated many of his arguments for funding his proposed wall along the southern border, which has been at the center of the ongoing shutdown. Asked if he could relate to "the pain of federal workers who can’t pay their bills" after they were furloughed, Trump said he could.

WHITE HOUSE: TRUMP SAYS HE DIDN'T BREAK CAMPAIGN LAW - President Donald Trump said Saturday he “did not commit a campaign violation” in the run-up to the 2016 election, despite a filing last month from federal prosecutors implicating the president in his former attorney’s campaign finance crimes (Politico). “Many people currently a part of my opposition, including President Obama & the Dems, have had campaign violations, in some cases for very large sums of money. These are civil cases. They paid a fine & settled,” Trump wrote online. “While no big deal, I did not commit a campaign violation!”

WHITE HOUSE: BOLTON SAYS SYRIAN PULLOUT CONDITIONAL - The Trump administration won’t withdraw U.S. forces from northern Syria unless Turkey offers a firm commitment not to target America’s Kurdish allies, White House national-security adviser John Bolton said, underscoring the challenges in executing the president’s wishes to put an end to the military campaign (Wall Street Journal). Speaking to reporters in Jerusalem on Sunday, Mr. Bolton said President Trump’s order to withdraw U.S. troops is a “cause and effect mission” that requires certain assurances from various players in the region before it can be executed. Mr. Bolton’s comments marked the first public acknowledgment from the White House that the safety of Kurdish allies is being considered as part of its pending withdrawal plan, but it also indicates that a quick withdrawal was unlikely given challenging regional dynamics. “Timetables or the timing of the withdrawal occurs as a result of the fulfillment of the conditions and the establishment of the circumstances that we want to see,” he said. “It’s not the establishment of an arbitrary point for the withdrawal to take place as President Obama did in the Afghan situation...the timetable flows from the policy decisions that we need to implement.”

STATE: RUSSIA DOWNPLAYS ‘SPY’ SWAP - Russia downplayed the possibility of swapping a detained American held on espionage charges for a Russian national behind bars in the United States, its foreign ministry said Saturday (Washington Post). The remarks came after the disclosure of the arrest of a Russian citizen in the Northern Mariana Islands by U.S. officials and his transfer to Florida, deepening the complexity surrounding the mysterious arrest of the American, Paul Whelan, last week in Moscow. An FBI spokeswoman declined to comment on the arrest of Dmitry Makarenko on Dec. 29, which Russia’s Foreign Ministry disclosed Saturday. U.S. court records show Makarenko, who lives in Russia, was indicted in Miami in 2017 on charges he broke American laws against exporting military equipment. He was also charged with money laundering.

MUELLER: GRAND JURY EXTENDED - pecial Counsel Robert Mueller’s Washington grand jury, which was set to expire over the weekend, has had its term formally extended by a federal judge (Politico). By law, most federal grand juries are impaneled for 18-month terms, although extensions for up to six months are routinely granted. The key grand jury used by Mueller came into existence on July 5, 2017, and would have run out Saturday without action from the court. Chief Judge Beryl Howell approved the extension of the investigative panel, although there was no comment by the court on why. “The chief judge confirms that grand jury 17-1 has been extended,” an aide to Howell said Friday.

PENTAGON: FORMER DEFENSE SEC. BROWN DIES AT 91 - Former Defense Secretary Harold Brown, who served under President Jimmy Carter, and wore many hats as an educator and a nuclear physicist, has died. He was 91 (CNN). Brown played a crucial role in the Carter administration's effort to end the Iranian hostage crisis, and described the botched 1980 rescue attempt as the biggest regret of his career. "The failure to rescue the U.S. hostages still haunts me," Brown wrote in his memoir "Star Spangled Security," according to the RAND Corporation, a think tank where Brown served on the board of trustees for decades.

ECONOMY: 312K JOBS ADDED IN DECEMBER - U. S. employers added jobs at a robust pace in December, and wages posted their biggest full-year gain in a decade, providing a strong counterpoint to Wall Street worries that tariffs and rising interest rates are holding back the economy (Wall Street Journal). Stock prices rose on the economic news, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average closing Friday with a 3.3% gain. Nonfarm payrolls rose a seasonally adjusted 312,000 in December, the Labor Department said Friday. That compared with the average gain of 215,000 a month over the previous five years. Average hourly earnings rose 3.2% in 2018, their biggest full-year gain of the expansion.


CITIES: IMMEDIATE PAY RAISE FOR INDY 911 DISPATCHERS -  Effective immediately, emergency dispatchers at Marion County's 911 call enter will get a pay raise. The pay hike was approved last night by the City County Council's Rules Committee and is intended to fix a serious problem identified by Eyewitness News (WTHR-TV). In November, 13 Investigates reported emergency operators in Indianapolis have been dealing with an emergency of their own: a severe shortage of dispatchers that is contributing to rising 911 wait times. WTHR's investigation also showed many Marion County residents are now forced to wait several minutes just for their emergency calls to be answered by a 911 dispatcher.

CITIES: FAMILY HOPES LANDSKE PLEADS GUILTY - The brother and sister-in-law of a murdered local prominent attorney said Friday they hope the accused shooter — former Cedar Lake councilman William “Bill” Landske — pleads guilty ahead of trial to spare the family from reliving the details. Paul Page, of Indianapolis, said a trial would be too painful for T. Edward Page’s husband, Kevin Swanson, and Landske’s two daughters — who all witnessed Page’s murder Aug. 15 at his home in Hobart (NWI Times). “Do they really want to do that to them?” he asked. Paul Page said he traveled from central Indiana to Crown Point early Friday morning with his wife, Sandy Page, to attend Landske’s pre-trial hearing in Lake Superior Court. At the hearing, Judge Rex W. Kepner, a specially appointed judge overseeing Landske’s case, reset Landske’s trial date from Feb. 11 to May 28. The delay was at the request of his defense attorney, Scott King, with no objection from prosecuting attorney Michael John Toth.

If Landske’s case goes to trial, it could last three or four days, Toth said.

CITIES: NEESE SELECTS NEW ELKHART PD CHIEF - Elkhart Mayor Tim Neese on Friday named a new police chief — a 21-year veteran of the city’s police department — to replace Ed Windbigler, who resigned last month amid controversies over his handling of misconduct in the department (South Bend Tribune). The new chief, Chris Snyder, served previously as a sergeant, a lieutenant, as the department’s spokesman under two different chiefs and, most recently, as a detective assigned to the Elkhart County Homicide Unit. “Chris is well-known and respected throughout the community for his professionalism and transparency,” Neese said in a news release posted late Friday afternoon on the city’s website. “During his years of service to the department, he has also earned the trust of his colleagues and other city staff.” Neese said 16 candidates, including some from outside the city police department, applied and interviewed for the job.

CITIES: STATE APPROVES TERRE HAUTE BUDGET - Terre Haute has received state approval for its 2019 budget with minimal revisions. This is the fourth balanced budget in a row for the city, which is working to eliminate a deficit that peaked at $9 million in 2015 (Indiana Public Media). Mayor Duke Bennett presented the state’s approval to the council Thursday night. In past years, the state ordered the city to eliminate millions of dollars from its budget to limit overspending. But this year, Bennett says the state only made changes to one fund. “It puts you in a good spot where you don’t have to worry about those past financial issues,” Bennett says. Martha Crossen is a member of the Terre Haute City Council and will serve as council president for 2019. She says the council will still keep a careful eye on spending. “Make sure we keep our spending within the limits of the budget, and even below if at all possible, so that we can keep reducing that deficit,” Crossen says. The city council approved the budget in October.

CITIES: SBA FINDS DISCREPANCIES AT MICHIGAN CITY SCHOOL - An audit by the Indiana State Board of Accounts found discrepancies in accounting practices at Krueger Middle School in Michigan City, and asked for money to be repaid by three former employees (Michigan City News-Dispatch). Two of those, a former principal and treasurer, repaid the funds. The third still owes nearly $6,000, and criminal charges could be filed, according to school officials. The SBA audit found problems in the Extracurricular (ECA) Account used for money from student activities, such as athletics, field trips, and clubs. The ECA treasurers for the school were Nancy Hurley (2013-15), Debbie Bye (2015-16), and Karen Parrish (2016-18), the report said. The treasurer was "primarily responsible for the accounting of these funds," though Vera Jones, former principal, had "direct control over the management of the funds, including the authorizing of transactions and signing of checks." In June 2016, Michigan City Area Schools officials discovered checks made payable to Jones. Issued from the ECA Account, they were "described in the memo section of the check as reimbursements for purchases for the middle school; however, no documentation was presented to support the purpose of these disbursements," the report said.

COUNTIES: ST. JOE OFFICIAL DUMPED OVER DRAIN - St. Joseph County Commissioner Dave Thomas has served for a decade on the county’s drainage board (Booker, South Bend Tribune). And Thomas has raised concerns about the county’s development plans in the New Carlisle area. He is against a proposal to relocate part of the Niespodziany Ditch to make room for businesses, contending it could cause farms to be flooded. The drainage board could play a key role in the fate of the project. Thomas, a Democrat, was surprised last week when his fellow commissioners — Republicans Andy Kostielney and Deb Fleming — voted for Kostielney to replace him on the drainage board. Thomas said Kostielney never reached out to him before the vote. He suspects politics drove the decision, with his Republican counterparts wanting to ensure the development plans are pushed through and remove him as a potential roadblock. “It’s not what is best for the people of St. Joseph County.” Thomas said. “I have 70 percent of the land mass in my district and pretty much all of the farmers that are dependent on this drainage.”