Thursday’s Mini-Report, 12.20.18

Today’s edition of quick hits:

* This is quite nutty: “President Donald Trump on Thursday afternoon defended his decision to risk a government shutdown over funding for his proposed border wall, saying the lack of such a barrier had left the nation open to a ‘total assault on our democracy itself.’”

* Look for more on this on tonight’s show: “A senior Justice Department ethics official concluded acting attorney general Matthew G. Whitaker should recuse from overseeing special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe examining President Trump, but advisers to Whitaker recommended the opposite and he has no plans to step aside, according to people familiar with the matter.”

* All 36 “no” votes were from Republicans: “A sweeping criminal justice overhaul is heading to the White House for President Donald Trump’s signature after the House cleared the measure. The House passed the bill, 358-36, Thursday amid a flurry of other bills approved in a year-end rush.”

* December is traditionally a great month for the stock market: “The stock market took a nosedive on Thursday, as fears of a looming government shutdown melded with Wednesday’s market discontent over the Federal Reserve’s decision to continue to raise rates in 2019.”

* In case you missed this last night: “Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III asked the House Intelligence Committee on Friday for an official transcript of Trump adviser Roger Stone’s testimony, according to people familiar with the request, a sign that prosecutors could be moving to charge him with a crime.”

* The right call: “A federal judge has dismissed a libel suit brought against BuzzFeed by a Russian internet entrepreneur who claimed he was defamed by the online news site’s publication of the so-called dossier on President Donald Trump’s alleged ties to Russia.”

* Trump’s policy isn’t working: “North Korea said Thursday it will never unilaterally give up its nuclear weapons unless the United States first removes what Pyongyang called a nuclear threat. The surprisingly blunt statement jars with Seoul’s rosier presentation of the North Korean position and could rattle the fragile trilateral diplomacy to defuse a nuclear crisis that last year had many fearing war.”

* File this away for future reference: “Sworn statements by President Trump dating back several decades indicate he has a deep understanding of campaign-finance laws, legal experts say, which could be critical if investigators ever pursue a case against him over his alleged direction of hush-money payments in the 2016 campaign.”

* It’s about damn time: “After nearly 100 years of failed attempts, the Senate on Wednesday unanimously approved legislation to make lynching a federal crime.”

* That’s an interesting statistic: “The U.S. population grew in the past year at its slowest rate in over eight decades…. The numbers, which cover the year ended July 1, show the country’s population rose by 0.6% to 327.2 million people. That was the lowest rate since 1937 in data going back to 1901, according to William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution.”

* I have mixed feelings about the demise of the briefings: “The White House has transitioned from daily press briefings to monthly press beratings.”

Anything to add? Consider this an open thread.