Ross, Pelosi, Trump, Cohen and the shutdown: Thursday’s top news

Our long national funding nightmare is not over. I’m Ashley Shaffer, your guide to the Short List. Here’s today’s biggest news. 

But first: The most expensive home (ever!) in America is off the market. Billionaire Ken Griffin got the keys to a pricy New York penthouse for a cool $238 million.

A ‘down payment,’ huh?

If you’ve lost track (that’s what I’m here for), the government has now been partially closed for 34 days. The Senate rejected dueling bills Thursday – one by Republicans, the other by Democrats – to fund the government and end the longest shutdown in U.S. history. Then President Donald Trump said he was open to ending the shutdown for three weeks in exchange for a “down payment” on a border wall. How large of a down payment? That wasn’t clear.

A sign of growing impatience: Six Republicans voted in favor of Thursday’s Democratic bill. 

Trump backs down in SOTU standoff 

Trump will wait to give his State of the Union address, after all. That’s after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi refused to let him deliver it in the House chamber until the shutdown resolves. Trump considered a speech elsewhere, but decided to wait because there’s “no venue that can compete” with the House chamber.

Then there’s Wilbur Ross

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, worth an estimated $700 million, said he doesn’t see why unpaid federal workers – who on Friday will miss their second paycheck since the shutdown began – are needing to go to food banks when they could just take out a loan. There “really is not a good excuse why there really should be a liquidity crisis,” he told CNBC.

Real quick

  • A school superintendent allegedly used her insurance to help a sick student. She’s facing fraud charges. 
  • Health officials declared a measles emergency in Portland, where many aren’t vaccinating babies. 
  • Southwest’s long-awaited Hawaii flights will likely be delayed for months.
  • Want your tax refund fast during the government shutdown? Do these two things.

Five dead in Florida. All women.

The man suspected of storming a Florida bank and killing five people will be held without bond on five counts of first-degree murder, a judge ordered Thursday. Here’s what emerged in the wake of the Wednesday tragedy:

  • The five people fatally shot were all women. Four SunTrust Bank employees. One customer.
  • The accused shooter was a former prison guard trainee.
  • His ex-girlfriend: “For some reason (he) always hated people and wanted everyone to die.”
  • Investigators believe the rampage was a random act.

Sorry, Cohen. You have to testify

A Senate committee on Thursday subpoenaed Michael Cohen, President Trump’s longtime fixer and ex-lawyer, to testify about his dealings with the president. The move came a day after Cohen refused to testify voluntarily to a House committee because of “threats” from the president and Rudy Giuliani. The testimony will be Cohen’s first congressional appearance since pleading guilty in August (to tax evasion and illegal campaign contributions) and pleading guilty in November for lying to Congress. 

Nathan Phillips takes his turn on ‘Today’

A day after Covington Catholic High School student Nicholas Sandmann spoke out on “Today” about the viral video stand-off, Native American elder Nathan Phillips got his turn. Phillips appeared on the show Thursday, saying he’s angry about the incident but has forgiveness in his heart for the students. When asked if he feels Nick should apologize, he said “yes.” Anchor Savannah Guthrie had another tough day on Twitter, where users blasted her for not asking tough questions. 

Is the bar too low at law schools?

Thousands of dollars in debt, some law students still can’t pass the bar. Are law schools to blame? A quarter of graduates at 19 U.S. law schools who took the bar exam couldn’t pass it within two years, a USA TODAY Network analysis of American Bar Association data found. The law schools include large state universities, private schools, and independent colleges enrolling about 7% of U.S. law school students nationwide. The ABA is considering sanctions against schools where too many students can’t pass the bar within two years.

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