Trump threatens to veto omnibus over lack of wall funding, DACA fix

President TrumpDonald John TrumpPoll: Both parties need to do more on drug prices Senate approves .3 trillion spending bill, sending to Trump White House: Trump will delay steel tariffs for EU, six countries MORE on Friday threatened to veto a massive $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill, raising the prospect of a government shutdown.

The president vented his frustration that the measure does not include enough funding for his long-promised border wall between the U.S. and Mexico or protections for young immigrants covered by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.


“I am considering a VETO of the Omnibus Spending Bill based on the fact that the 800,000 plus DACA recipients have been totally abandoned by the Democrats (not even mentioned in Bill) and the BORDER WALL, which is desperately needed for our National Defense, is not fully funded,” Trump tweeted.

Talking heads on one of Trump’s favorite television programs, “Fox and Friends,” trashed the proposal on Friday morning. 

The tweet comes after the White House reassured lawmakers that Trump would sign the spending bill, pleasing leaders in both parties who scrambled to reach a deal before Friday’s funding deadline.

“Let’s cut right to the chase. Is the president going to sign the bill? The answer is yes,” White House budget director Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyOvernight Regulation: Omnibus includes deal on tip-pooling rule | Groups sue over rules for organic livestock | AT&T, DOJ make opening arguments in merger trial Warren presses Mulvaney, Azar on tip pooling House easily passes .3 trillion spending bill MORE said Thursday.

If Trump instead vetoes the measure, it would trigger a government shutdown beginning Saturday. 

Members of the House and Senate have already begun to leave Washington ahead of a two-week holiday recess and are not prepared to quickly pass a stopgap spending measure.

The Senate sent the bill to Trump’s desk early Friday morning on a bipartisan, 65-32 vote hours after the House approved the measure. The bill would fund the government through the end of September.

Sixty-five of 97 senators voted early Friday morning to approve the omnibus, giving it two-thirds support in the upper chamber and enough to override a Trump veto.

The spending package, however, would face an uphill path getting two-thirds support in the House, where Trump’s support among Republican lawmakers is more solid.

The House approved the measure Thursday with 256 out of 423 votes, or roughly three-fifths support — well short of the two-thirds threshold.

Trump had dragged his feet in supporting the proposal, even though members of his own staff had participated in the negotiations on Capitol Hill.

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanHouse Republicans grumble about the ‘worst process ever’ Winners and losers from the .3T omnibus Collins: McConnell has ‘kept his commitment’ on ObamaCare fix MORE (R-Wis.) on Wednesday made a last-minute trip to the White House, meeting with Trump for 45 minutes to persuade the president to sign the measure.

Ryan declared victory on Thursday, telling reporters “the president supports this bill, there’s no two ways about it.”

A spokeswoman for Ryan did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Trump’s veto threat. 

A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the leader did not have a statement to issue at press time.

“One of two things will happen. He either signs the bill by the end of the day, or he ends up signing a bill he likes even less after Republicans have to renegotiate with Democrats to get out of a shutdown,” the source said of the options facing Trump. 

Some Republicans, however, are egging the president on.

Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerSenate approves .3 trillion spending bill, sending to Trump Senate bracing for possible long weekend Overnight Defense: Trump replaces McMaster with Bolton | .3T omnibus awaits Senate vote | Bill gives Pentagon flexibility on spending | State approves B arms sale to Saudis MORE (R-Tenn.) on Friday morning urged Trump to veto the measure.

“Please do, Mr. President,” he wrote on Twitter. “I am just down the street and will bring you a pen. The spending levels without any offsets are grotesque, throwing all of our children under the bus. Totally irresponsible.”

A shutdown would wreak havoc with the congressional schedule , as many lawmakers have planned official trips for the two-week Easter recess.

Sen. Christopher CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsOnce on chopping block, Trump’s budget puts development finance in overdrive Overnight Defense: Senate sides with Trump on military role in Yemen | Dem vets push for new war authorization on Iraq anniversary | General says time isn’t ‘right’ for space corps Water has experienced a decade of bipartisan success MORE (D-Del.) is leading a congressional delegation trip to Africa, for example. And many lawmakers are in Rochester, N.Y., for the funeral of Rep. Louise SlaughterDorothy (Louise) Louise SlaughterHouse Republicans grumble about the ‘worst process ever’ House easily passes .3 trillion spending bill House poised to vote on .3T spending bill MORE (D-N.Y.).

Trump may be trying to highlight his reluctance to sign the bill given opposition from conservatives, who have cast it as wasteful spending. He also could be trying to skirt blame for the inability to reach a deal to protect DACA recipients, who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children.

The president floated a plan that would offer them a pathway to citizenship in exchange for funding for his border wall and changes to the legal immigration system.

But Congress rejected that proposal, instead giving Trump a fraction of the money he requested for border barriers.

“DACA was abandoned by the Democrats. Very unfair to them! Would have been tied to desperately needed Wall,” Trump tweeted minutes before his veto threat.

Updated at 10:04 a.m.

Max Greenwood contributed to this story.

White House lawyer McGahn eager to exit, but it’s complicated

Don McGahn is pictured. | Getty Images

White House Counsel Don McGahn’s departure would also free him from some of the daily turmoil associated with playing a prominent role in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. | Alex Wong/Getty Images

The departure would come amid a shakeup of Trump’s legal team for the Russia probe.

President Donald Trump’s top White House lawyer, Don McGahn, is expected to step down later this year, though his resignation is contingent on the president finding a replacement and several other factors, according to four sources familiar with McGahn’s thinking.

McGahn, according to two of the sources, has signaled interest in returning to the Jones Day law firm where he previously worked and reprising a role he had during the 2016 campaign by handling legal matters for Trump’s re-election.

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But the exact timing for McGahn to make any move remains in flux. He’s told associates he’d like to leave the White House by the summer, but it could also be put on hold through the 2018 midterms.

Concerned about the velocity of turnover inside his White House and beyond — Trump personal lawyer John Dowd resigned on Thursday, and the president has made changes atop the State Department, CIA and the national security adviser slot — sources said Trump wants to have a new White House counsel in place who he’s comfortable with before clearing McGahn for the exits.

“I think it’s all up in the air,” said a source close to McGahn. “I think he’d like to quit very much. The president doesn’t want him to quit. The president wants him to stay. I don’t think he knows who will replace him.”

McGahn, a former Federal Election Commission member, was one of Trump’s earliest political advisers, signing on even before the Republican announced his presidential campaign in the spring of 2015.

As White House counsel, McGahn has played a prominent but controversial role shepherding Trump’s Cabinet picks through confirmation, as well as notching lifetime appointments for 29 federal judges, including Supreme Court Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch. McGahn has also been central to the reversal of myriad Obama-era policy regulations dealing with the environment and energy, health care, financial services and other industrial sectors.

“He can look at his first 14 to 16 months and say he’s probably had a pretty good run,” said a second McGahn associate.

A third McGahn associate said his departure also may hinge on whether there’s another opening for Trump to fill on the Supreme Court — an impossible-to-predict scenario but one that could present a unique legacy opportunity for the White House counsel. “I think if we had a possibility of getting another Supreme Court justice, I think he’d hang in,” the source said.

A White House spokesman declined comment. McGahn did not respond to requests for comment about his job plans or a potential return to Jones Day, where he was paid an annual salary of $2.4 million as a partner before joining government, according to a 2017 financial disclosure form filed with the Office of Government Ethics.

McGahn’s departure would also free him from some of the daily turmoil associated with playing a prominent role in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

The White House counsel told the president in January 2017 that then-national security adviser Michael Flynn had misled both the FBI and Vice President Mike Pence about his interactions with the Russian ambassador to the U.S., which led to Flynn’s firing.

On Trump’s orders, McGahn tried without success last March to stop Attorney General Jeff Sessions from recusing himself from the whole probe. McGahn also had a role in last May’s firing of FBI Director James Comey. And Trump tried to get McGahn in June to press the Justice Department to examine potential grounds for firing Mueller.

McGahn ignored the president’s requests, telling then-White House chief of staff Reince Priebus and then-senior strategist Steve Bannon that he’d resign if the president didn’t stop asking him about the issue.

The Russia portfolio shifted out of McGahn’s hands last summer with the arrival of Ty Cobb, whose daily responsibilities included White House document production and lining up current aides to meet with Mueller for interviews.

But Cobb and McGahn still clashed over whether Trump should be so cooperative with the special counsel. McGahn urged the president to assert executive privilege on some documents being sought, but Trump followed Cobb’s counsel and did not block any document production, according to sources familiar with the president’s legal strategy.

McGahn has met on at least two occasions for interviews with Mueller’s prosecutors. During a recent visit he shared details about the president’s reaction to a January New York Times story that described how McGahn had resisted his order to fire Mueller.

Trump denied that he’d made any such request and asked then-White House staff secretary Rob Porter to get McGahn to issue a statement disputing the article. If McGahn refused, Trump told the aide that he could be fired.

The Trump and McGahn relationship is by many accounts a complicated one. Two sources said they speak infrequently. Another noted that McGahn remains close to White House chief of staff John Kelly and that Trump does indeed rely on his top counsel.

“It’s hard to explain, but I think [Trump] values Don and his advice, and part of it isthat Don is probably one of the only people who’s ever said ‘no’ to him,” one of the McGahn associates said.

A list of candidates to replace McGahn remains a work in progress.

Several elite attorneys, including former George W. Bush solicitor general Ted Olson, Robert Giuffra Jr. and Reid Weingarten, declined job offers from Trump last spring to work on his Russia response. Former George W. Bush attorneys Bill Burck and Emmet Flood also rejected overtures for the position that Cobb accepted to work in the White House.

Flood subsequently met with the president earlier this month at the White House, though it’s unclear if that has led to a job offer. Another name mentioned this week by a source close to Trump: Jay Clayton, the current chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Said one former senior White House lawyer, “Coming in now, it would take a brave soul.”

Reports: Hostage-taking in France treated as ‘terror incident’:

Security forces are responding to the hostage situation | Pascal Pavani/AFP via Getty Images

Gunman claimed allegiance to Islamic State, according to media reports.

A gunman has taken hostages in a supermarket in Trèbes, south-western France, according to media reports.

The individual reportedly opened fire around 11 a.m. and has claimed allegiance to the terror group Islamic State, AFP reported.

French prosecutors are treating the hostage-taking as a terror incident, according to AFP. Security forces are also responding to the shooting of a policeman in the neighboring town of Carcassonne. It is unclear if the two incidents are linked.

The interior ministry said a security perimeter has been put in place and warned people to avoid the area.

Meet the woman charged with tackling Facebook’s data scandal

LONDON — When Elizabeth Denham became the U.K.’s privacy regulator in 2016, data protection was hardly the hot-button topic it is today.

Fast-forward 18 months, and the world has changed. Denham is now in the eye of a storm over allegations that roughly 50 million Facebook users had personal data harvested without their consent by a British-based researcher connected to Cambridge Analytica, a political research firm with ties to Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

The scandal — in which both Facebook and Cambridge Analytica deny wrongdoing — is exposing Denham and her previously little-known U.K. data protection agency to an unprecedented level of scrutiny, as lawmakers wonder whether she has the resources, power and political backing to take on a privacy investigation involving one of the world’s biggest tech companies.

Denham’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is now leading the global investigation into whether Cambridge Analytica — which used data from Facebook to try to help U.S. President Donald Trump get elected — ran afoul of Britain’s tough data protection standards. As of Thursday, she had yet to obtain a warrant to seek information from the firm.

“The ICO finds itself well positioned to be seen as an influential regulator” — Eduardo Ustaran, Hogan Lovells law firm

Industry executives, British lawmakers and other countries’ privacy regulators expect the ICO’s response to the recent scandal will shape how other watchdogs, including the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, which has launched a separate probe into the allegations, will handle misuses of personal data.

It also will shape perceptions about how serious the U.K. is about data protection — a vital prerequisite to a post-Brexit deal to keep data worth billions of pounds in trade flowing with the European Union, United States and others.

“The ICO finds itself well positioned to be seen as an influential regulator,” said Eduardo Ustaran, co-director of the global privacy and cybersecurity practice at Hogan Lovells, a law firm in London. “It’s a very firm and powerful regulator, which will only bark once and then will bite.”

Lack of powers

Denham, a Canadian who previously ran British Columbia’s data protection authority, has carved out a reputation as an active enforcer.

In the fallout from the U.K.’s referendum on leaving the European Union, she began an investigation into how data may have been used to sway potential voters during the 2016 vote. The most recent revelations linked to Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, the ICO confirmed, will be included in that existing probe, which is expected to report back to U.K. lawmakers by late spring.

Traffic passes the shared building that houses the offices of Cambridge Analytica in central London on March 21, 2018 | Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP via Getty Images

“With big data, cloud computing and analytics, old-fashioned data collection has shifted significantly and maybe without taking voters with it,” Denham told the British parliament in January. “More data is available to political parties, but it’s unclear how they can use it.”

But Denham’s ability to investigate Facebook and Cambridge Analytica hinges on her ability to gather evidence — an area where she has run into roadblocks. Before media revelations outlined over the weekend how Cambridge Analytica had used a Cambridge University researcher to gather information on U.S. citizens through an app download onto people’s smartphones, Denham had issued a “demand for access” — a warrant with notice — to Cambridge Analytica.

It was not answered by the company. Denham announced Monday, after the story regained prominence, that she was seeking a warrant to obtain the information and access to evidence. Now, her request has been delayed until Friday after a High Court judge sought an adjournment.

The bureaucratic hurdles meant that she was forced to stop Facebook carrying out its own audit of Cambridge Analytica’s premises earlier this week. The move would “potentially compromise a regulatory investigation,” she said.

Brendan O’Hara, a Scottish National Party MP and member of digital select committee, which has been probing the use of data in election campaigning as part of its “fake news” inquiry, said that Denham was doing her best to gather information. But, he added, the U.K. regulator lacked sufficient powers to obtain a rapid search warrant.

Denham has issued eight fines in the first three quarters of the financial year ending in April | Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images

“I think that the the U.K. has to recognize the world in which we now live in and we have to be a bit more fleet of foot in terms of getting emergency warrants for the information commissioner in circumstances such as this,” he said.

At a recent hearing of the fake news inquiry, Denham herself warned that organizations that refuse to cooperate could “buy themselves out of compliance with an investigation” through a fine. “I actually want the information in an inquisitorial investigation,” she said.

Reputation to live up to

As Britain’s chief data protection officer, Denham has shown a willingness to impose fines on companies found in breach of privacy rules. John Whittingdale, the U.K. culture secretary responsible for her appointment, said that she had been picked because she had demonstrated she was “prepared to take a tough line where necessary” in her previous job in Canada.

“I think certainly we felt we needed somebody who we felt would be a bit more proactive and was capable of taking more of a public role and be able to explain and defend the role of the information commission, take quite a strong line in enforcing data protection rules,” he said.

So far, Denham has issued eight fines in the first three quarters of the financial year ending in April, including a hefty penalty against TalkTalk, a local mobile phone carrier, for failing to protect people’s digital information.

Lawyers and EU officials also praised Denham for taking a “pragmatic” approach to enforcement.

In her first annual report, published last year, she also boasted of having issued more penalties for breaches of the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations, British privacy legislation, than ever before. In total, the ICO issued 16 civil monetary penalties totaling £1.6 million for serious breaches of the data protection principles across both public and private sectors, according to regulatory filings.

Such willingness to fine companies for breaking British and European data protection rules, which are some of the toughest anywhere in the world, has won her plaudits from others in Europe. Willem Debeuckelaere, the Belgian data protection chief, for instance, said that Denham was a “strong woman, someone you can actually get things done with.”

“She’s very efficient, very clear, and clearly raises the bar,” he added.

A senior figure in the U.K. tech industry, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about his organization’s dealings with the regulator, agreed that there was “quite a lot of steel there.”

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in Menlo Park, California | Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images

“She is very highly regarded by policymakers, by her fellow data protection community across Europe and internationally, and also by the industry,” the person added.

Lawyers and EU officials also praised Denham for taking a “pragmatic” approach to enforcement, which they contrasted with at times overly aggressive practices by other authorities. O’Hara, the British lawmaker, said it was essential the U.K. was not seen as “part of the Wild West of data regulation and data protection,” warning that the U.K. must be seen to be “adhering to the gold standard in terms of data protection.”

David vs. Goliath

But Denham now faces one of the biggest tests of her career.

While it remains unclear if Facebook or Cambridge Analytic breached the U.K.’s privacy standards, the ICO — which has 527 employees for all its functions — may not have the financial resources to cope with the global investigation, particularly as it is struggling to hold onto employees now leaving in droves for higher salaries in the private sector.

Currently, the British regulator has 10 people working on its existing investigation into how data may have been misused in the Brexit referendum, according to statements by Denham to British politicians.

A poster of Cambridge Analytica’s CEO Alexander Nix at the firm’s office in London | Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP via Getty Images

Maurice Frankel, a director at the Campaign for Freedom of Information, an advocacy group, said that the upcoming revamp to Europe’s data protection standards, known as the General Data Protection Regulation, and the U.K.’s own Data Protection Bill, which is currently going through the U.K. parliament, meant that Denham’s office also is under particular pressure before the May 25 deadline, when all of this new legislation comes into force.

“In comparison to Facebook and Google and so on, the information commissioner is a very small organization,” Frankel said. “Although they have the legal powers, they are very heavily outgunned in terms of the resources and the funding for legal costs available to some of the people on the other side of the fence.”

Laurens Cerulus contributed reporting.

Brexit: A managed surrender

“Theresa May has mostly had to accept the European Union’s terms for the divorce and a transition period to avoid a cliff-edge rupture in economic ties” | Jack Taylor/Getty Images

Europe at Large

London talks tough but gives Brussels what it wants.



Forget red lines, bellicose declarations and rhetoric about the United Kingdom taking back control — Brexit so far has been a process of managed surrender.

British officials acknowledge that Prime Minister Theresa May has mostly had to accept the European Union’s terms for the divorce and a transition period to avoid a cliff-edge rupture in economic ties that could have crippled business.

However, the Brits insist, the real negotiation starts now and much is still to play for: deep access to the single market, a special customs arrangement for frictionless trade, assured access for British financial services, a security treaty, a privileged partnership in foreign policy and defense.

All this is within reach, the government says, even if the U.K. insists on diverging selectively from EU rules and shrugging off the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.

Dream on! The withdrawal talks are likely to become even more lopsided as an unofficial October deadline for agreement on the framework of the future U.K.-EU relationship draws near. Any resemblance with a negotiation among equals is purely cosmetic.

London had to accept that EU nationals who settle in Britain during the interim period will have the same right to remain indefinitely as current residents.

If you think London still has aces up its sleeve, consider the process so far.

May has lasted in office longer than many pundits predicted she would because, weak as her grip on power may have been since she lost her parliamentary majority last year, she has timed her surrenders cleverly.

It looks chaotic and undignified, but the prime minister has hunkered down and let pro- and anti-Brexit factions in her party shout the odds in the media day and night, squabble publicly about acceptable terms for a deal, leak against each other and publish Sunday newspaper columns challenging her authority.

Then in the few days before a European summit deadline for the next phase of a deal, she has rammed the only position acceptable to Brussels through her cabinet and effectively called the hard Brexiteers’ bluff.

In phase one, Britain accepted the European Commission’s method for calculating its financial liabilities to the EU but claimed to have beaten down the price. It accepted Brussels’ conditions on the future rights of European citizens living in Britain and of British nationals living on the Continent.

“Swallow the lot and swallow it now” — Britain’s chief negotiator Con O’Neill

Brexiteers, who had said that Brussels could “go whistle” if it wanted any money, meekly embraced the withdrawal agreement in December, declaring it a victory for May. Bemused EU leaders applauded her politely.

In phase two, London agreed lock-stock-and-barrel to Brussels’ terms for a 21-month transition period — shorter than Britain had wanted — during which the U.K. will have to apply all EU laws without any say in the bloc’s decisions, in exchange for keeping its current market access.

This time, EU leaders rallied around May with words of solidarity over “highly likely” Russian responsibility for the nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy and his daughter in Salisbury. But, again, the concessions were all on the British side.

London had to accept that EU nationals who settle in Britain during the interim period will have the same right to remain indefinitely as current residents. It has also swallowed, at least provisionally, the Commission’s fallback position for keeping Northern Ireland inside the EU’s single market if Britain cannot come up with a credible alternative to avoid a hard customs border with the Republic of Ireland.

As a sop, Brussels agreed that the U.K. will be able negotiate and sign, but not implement, trade deals with third countries during the transition.

“It is hard to see what points the government has won,” said Jacob Rees-Mogg | Jack Taylor/Getty Images

True, there will be a joint committee to try to fix any disputes that arise during the standstill period from March 29, 2019 to December 31, 2020. But if the two sides don’t agree, the European Court of Justice — the bogeyman of Brexiteers — will have the final say.

Again, the hard Brexiteers rolled over, presumably because they are so determined to ensure that the departure date is irreversible and in the belief that once “liberated” from the yoke of Brussels, the U.K. will be free to deregulate at leisure.

“The transition agreement in itself is unsatisfactory,” Jacob Rees-Mogg, leader of a group of hardline pro-Brexit Conservative lawmakers, said. “It is hard to see what points the government has won…” But crucially, he added: “It is, nonetheless, tolerable if the end state is a clean Brexit.”

One British negotiator said: “We had to clear these preliminaries out of the way to get to the core business of our future relationship.”

But when it comes to trade in goods and services, the balance of power and time are, once again, not on London’s side. The threat of a no-deal Brexit is more harmful to the U.K. than to its continental partners — even if it would cause economic disruption in North Sea littoral states and financial markets.

“We’ve never had an exit negotiation before, but the reality is it’s a lot like an accession negotiation in reverse,” said Michael Leigh, a former head of the European Commission’s enlargement department who is now a visiting professor at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies in Bologna, Italy.

That’s not good news for the Brexiteers. Joining the EU entails negotiations in name only. Candidate countries must adopt the entire body of EU law; any bargaining that takes place is basically over how fast to apply it and how soon the newcomer gets the full benefits of membership, including free movement for its workers.

On future relations too, May will need to execute a well-timed U-turn if she is to minimize damage to the British economy.

“Swallow the lot and swallow it now,” was how Britain’s chief negotiator Con O’Neill described the accession process before the U.K. joined the community in 1973, according to his confidential account of the talks published in 2000.

It turns out that leaving the bloc is a strikingly symmetrical process. “The equivalent of accepting [EU law] is accepting the Commission’s negotiating guidelines, which have been approved by all 27 EU partners and cannot be substantially changed,” Leigh said.

The government insists that the British parliament will have the sovereign right after Brexit to diverge from EU rules as and where it chooses. Access to the EU market will depend on Britain’s willingness to go on applying the bloc’s rules, not just for a temporary period but indefinitely.

But under pressure from hardline Brexiteers, May says she has ruled out half-way steps such as staying in the EU single market or in the customs union. Squaring that circle will be one of the big challenges of the coming months.

So far, Brexit supporters have gone along with her climbdowns, whether to ensure that Brexit actually happens on time, to cling to their ministerial jobs or to prevent a government collapse that could let Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn into Downing Street — or a combination of all three.

Whether they will accept a long-term alignment with EU laws and trade deals in order to preserve access to the single market and remain in a customs union with the bloc remains to be seen. But on future relations too, May will need to execute a well-timed U-turn if she is to minimize damage to the British economy.

And that means the rest of the Brexit process is likely to look very much like it has thus far: a thunderous standoff masking a gradual retreat.

Paul Taylor, contributing editor at POLITICO, writes the Europe At Large column.