It was the night before Christmas, and U.S. President Donald Trump was on the phone with children, peppering them with questions about whether they were looking forward to the holiday.
Every Christmas Eve, the North American Aerospace Defense Command in Colorado Springs, Colorado, claims to track Santa Claus’ flight across the globe, a tradition dating to 1955, when a department store printed the phone number of a NORAD colonel in a Christmas newspaper ad by mistake.
This year, though, the NORAD calls came at a precarious time for the president, who is mired in crises, from a government shutdown that has affected a quarter of federal agencies and departments to a stock market selloff amid Trump’s public criticisms of the Federal Reserve.
The NORAD calls were the first time Trump has been seen in public since the shutdown began. NORAD said on Friday it would continue the tradition in the event of a shutdown, adding in a tweet that military personnel would be supported by 1,500 volunteers.
Trump, who had been scheduled to leave for his Florida vacation home on Friday, has opted instead to stay at the White House during the shutdown so far, which occurred after he and top lawmakers failed to end an impasse over funding for his proposed wall along the border with Mexico.
Instead of enjoying the warmth of the Florida sun, Trump has spent the lead-up to the holiday meeting with lawmakers and Cabinet officials.
He has also used the time to tweet about people and subjects such as outgoing Defense Secretary James Mattis, who abruptly resigned last week following Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria; North Korea; the Fed; and Senate Foreign Relations chairman Bob Corker.
“I am all alone (poor me) in the White House waiting for the Democrats to come back and make a deal on desperately needed Border Security,” Trump tweeted on Monday.
Trump’s Republican Party holds majorities in both congressional chambers until Jan. 3, when Democrats take control of the House of Representatives.
But with the children, Trump appeared to try to keep things light as he sat beside his wife, Melania, in front of a roaring fireplace beneath a portrait of former President Abraham Lincoln.
“Are you still a believer in Santa?” he asked his interlocutor.
But even Christmas could not keep out news about the shutdown. Asked by reporters if any progress had been made on government funding talks, Trump said there was nothing to report.
“Nothing new,” Trump said. “We need border security.”
‘You’d perjure yourself’: Trump mocked for saying he’d ‘strongly consider’ testifying
In a series of tweets this Monday morning, President Trump lashed out at "Our Crazy, Do Nothing" Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, for allegedly suggesting that he "testify about the phony Impeachment Witch Hunt" -- a sentiment that Trump said that he might be open to.
"She also said I could do it in writing. Even though I did nothing wrong, and don’t like giving credibility to this No Due Process Hoax, I like the idea & will, in order to get Congress focused again, strongly consider it!" Trump tweeted.
Fox News analyst blasts Pelosi for saying Trump should testify — then gets blindsided by Trump’s tweet 2 minutes later
Fox News legal analyst Andrew McCarthy on Monday blasted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) for saying President Donald Trump could testify in the ongoing impeachment inquiry. But just moments later, Trump himself said that he wanted to testify.
“It is not only zero chance it will happen, they know that it is inappropriate even to float that out,” McCarthy told Fox News host Bill Hemmer.
He said that the Founding Fathers were worried that impeachment would become politicized and that it could give Congress too much power to attack the president.
Dozens of Hong Kong protesters make daring campus breakout
Dozens of Hong Kong protesters escaped a two-day police siege at a campus late Monday by shimmying down a rope from a bridge to awaiting motorbikes in a dramatic and perilous breakout that followed a renewed warning by Beijing of a possible intervention to end the crisis engulfing the city.
Clashes rumbled throughout the day between protesters and police who had threatened to use deadly force to dislodge activists holed-up in the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU).
The university siege has become a battle of wills between Hong Kong's stretched police force and the constantly-innovating protest movement.