The Atlantic Politics & Policy Daily: How’s It Cohen?

Donald Trump allegedly directed Michael Cohen, then his personal lawyer, to lie to Congress about a real-estate deal he was pursuing in Moscow during the 2016 election.

Craig Ruttle / AP

What We’re Following Today

It’s Friday, January 18. President Donald Trump will reportedly meet with the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in February.

How It All Could End: As the government shutdown bleeds into its 28th day, some congressional staffers have privately come to a consensus: A resolution to the dysfunction may require a dramatic government failure, such as an airplane crash or a massive food-safety scare.

Talking Impeachment: On Thursday night, BuzzFeed News reported that Trump allegedly directed Michael Cohen, then his personal lawyer, to lie to Congress about a real-estate deal he was pursuing in Moscow during the 2016 election. Trump denied the story, but it’s prompted many Democrats to consider proceeding with impeachment before Special Counsel Robert Mueller finishes his investigation.

Shutdown Time Capsule: Trump on Friday tweeted about a Washington Examiner report that a border rancher found prayer rugs near the southern border. The tweet offers a succinct demonstration of Trump’s entire shutdown approach, argues David A. Graham.

In Case of Attack: Trump’s blueprint for the U.S.’s missile-defense strategy outlines high-tech systems to detect and shoot down threatening projectiles. But the strategy relies on technology that is unreliable and even experimental.

Historical Shutdowns: In 1879, congressional Democrats, some representing former Confederate states, attached a series of riders to key military-funding bills in order to limit Republican President Rutherford B. Hayes from being able to finance Army protections for black voters from being terrorized at the polls. The standoff that ensued looked very much like a government shutdown. From our archives:

The democratic party, having a majority in Congress, demanded the repeal of certain statutes authorizing the use of the army to keep the peace, and providing for a supervision of elections of members of Congress by special officers appointed by the courts, to guard against fraudulent registration, voting, and counting; and its leaders threatened that unless the president assented to this demand they would leave the government without means of supporting either the army or the executive, legislative, and judicial departments, which was a threat of bringing the government to an end.

The Politics & Policy Daily will be off for Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday — see you next Tuesday.

Ideas From The Atlantic

Trump’s Impeachable Offense (Adam Serwer)
“Republicans have tried their best to set expectations so that only the clearest and most shocking of acts would qualify as criminal—and Trump’s reported actions not only meet but exceed them.” → Read on.

In the L.A. Teachers’ Strike, the State Is the Problem (Michael Janofsky)
“Despite being the world’s fifth-biggest economy, with Democrats serving in every statewide office and holding supermajorities in both chambers of the legislature, California ranks in the middle among states in per-pupil spending on elementary and secondary education.” → Read on.

The Trump Administration’s Careless Accounting (Megan Garber)
“That Trump summons more emotion for a notional wall than he does for the suffering of human children is clear enough. What this week’s report suggests, though, is how that bias gets bureaucratized.” Read on.


Donald Trump's 50 Most Unthinkable Moments

(Patrick Semansky / AP)

Unthinkable is The Atlantic’s catalog of 50 incidents from the first two years of President Trump’s first term in office, ranked—highly subjectively!—according to both their outlandishness and their importance.

At No. 1: Children are taken from their parents and incarcerated.

Join the conversation: Which moments from the Trump presidency would you add to this list? Email us at with the subject line “Unthinkable,” and include your full name, city, and state. Or tweet using the hashtag #TrumpUnthinkable.

“Reading Jeffrey Goldberg’s piece, and then the subsequent 50 unthinkable moments, it becomes clear that it is not the bending of norms that should have us alarmed—it is our incremental desensitization to what constitutes a norm at all.”
—Dr. Brian P. H. Green of Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada

→ Read more reader-suggested moments here.


Antiabortion activists protest outside the U.S. Supreme Court during the March for Life in Washington. (Jose Luis Magana / AP)

What Else We’re Reading

Rep. Steve King Raising Money off Controversy From White Nationalism, Supremacy Comments (Robin Opsahl, Des Moines Register)

Trump Said He Beat ISIS. Instead, He’s Giving It New Life. (Brett McGurk, The Washington Post)

How Jared Kushner Tried to Stop Me From Running the Trump Transition (Chris Christie, Politico)

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