Shutdown nears record; Ginning up a “crisis”; Another Syria-policy reversal; DOD’s phantom real estate; And a bit more.

The U.S. government shutdown has entered its 20th day, and tomorrow is critical for many furloughed workers. That’s because for the first time during this shutdown, hundreds of thousands of the furloughed won’t receive a full paycheck on Friday, CNN reports.

“This is the second longest government shutdown since 1976,” The New York Times reports in a historical interactive on the topic. And if the government doesn’t reopen by Saturday, this one will be the longest ever — surpassing the 21-day shutdown in 1995, during the Clinton administration.

Reminder: The government is shut down because President Trump wants border-wall funding that Senate Republicans rejected and House Democrats call “immoral” and a non-starter.

National security casualties of the shutdown include the U.S. Coast Guard’s civilian workers: “about 6,400 of them are on indefinite furlough, while 2,100 are working without pay,” the Washington Post’s Dan Lamothe reported Wednesday. Those civilians “were last paid for the two-week period ended Dec. 22.” So the Coast Guard reportedly distributed a five-page tipsheet titled “Managing your finances during a furlough,” Lamothe writes.

Among the suggestions:

  • Have a garage sale.
  • Do some babysitting.
  • Or maybe even dog-walking for neighbors.
  • Or even serve as a “mystery shopper.”
  • And finally: “Bankruptcy is a last option.”

Where is the tip sheet now? Gone, after the Post asked about it. Read the formal reason why, and a bit more from Lamothe’s report, here.

From Defense One

Why Trump Is Trying to Create a Crisis // The Atlantic’s Peter Beinart: The president didn’t declare a state of national emergency on Tuesday night, but he laid the foundation for doing so.

In Primetime Addresses, Trump and Democrats Show No Progress Toward Ending Shutdown // GovExec’s Eric Katz: Both sides highlight federal employees, but for very different reasons.

Pentagon Owns Fewer Buildings Than Previously Thought: Audit // Marcus Weisgerber: The Navy was counting buildings that were demolished and the Army was counting uninhabitable facilities on the books.

Welcome to this Thursday edition of The D Brief by Bradley Peniston and Ben Watson. Thanks for reading!

President Trump is headed south today to the U.S.-Mexico border city of McAllen, Texas. McAllen is home to the biggest immigration processing center in the U.S.— called Ursula. The same place “at the center of the controversial practice of separating children from their families after they crossed into the U.S.,” Fox News reports.
The purpose for Trump’s visit: To “meet with those on the frontlines of the national security and humanitarian crisis,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said Wednesday. Fox News has more details, here.
Ginning up a “crisis.” Vice President Mike Pence and DHS Secretary Nielsen used the word “crisis” 37 times in their hourlong talk with reporters on Monday, CNN’s Evan Perez noted. Yet “the number of people caught trying to cross illegally is near 20-year lows,” as the Washington Post wrote yesterday.
So why? The White House, Perez writes, is increasingly using the term “to build possible legal rationale for emergency declaration.” The Atlantic’s Peter Beinart explores that theory, here.
Speaking of which: One path out of the shutdown impasse, floated by unnamed White House officials to the Wall Street Journal—

  1. Trump declares a national emergency;
  2. Courts intervene and stay the order;
  3. Trump and Congress re-open the government while case is litigated. More details from that plan, here.

Said Trump this morning about that path: He retains “the option” to declare a national emergency over the border wall/shutdown. “If this doesn’t work out, I’ll probably will do it, maybe definitely,” according to White House pool reports this morning.

Turning abroad now: America does not have a confused Syria policy — despite what you may have witnessed since December 19, U.S. State Secretary Mike Pompeo insisted to reporters today in Cairo.
Said Pompeo, via CNN’s Jake Tapper: “The President’s been very clear, and Ambassador Bolton and I have been very clear about this too, that the threat from radical Islamic terrorism is real. ISIS continues – we fight them in many regions around the country…We’re going to do it in a way in one particular place, Syria, differently. The United States’ decision, President Trump’s decision to withdraw our troops has been made. We will do that. It is possible to hold in your head the thought” of a withdrawal while continuing to fight ISIS.
BTW: The U.S. still wants to “expel every last Iranian boot” from Syria, Pompeo added. A tiny bit more from Reuters, here.

Africa deployment situation update: A week ago, some 80 U.S. troops deployed to Gabon while delayed election results were finalized in neighboring Congo. Today “opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi is named the provisional winner of a long-awaited presidential poll,” Agence France-Presse reports. Next for the U.S. troops would seem to be ensuring security in Congo’s city of Kinshasa normalizes enough to allow the 80 troops to return. Stay tuned.

Boeing finally delivered the first KC-46 tanker to the Air Force, years behind schedule and after eating more than $3 billion in unexpected development costs. Defense News has that scoop, here.
How we got here. Lots of background, here.

And finally today: Former Gitmo CO indicted.  Navy Capt. John Nettleton, 53, “has been charged with obstruction of justice and accused of lying about a violent confrontation he had with a civilian worker at the base just before that worker was found dead,” the Washington Post reports. The body of Christopher Tur was found in Guantanamo Bay in 2015, two days after the naval-exchange worker confronted Nettleton in a club and accused him of having an affair with his wife. Read on, here.

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