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Trump steps off Marine One after returning from Camp David. Photo: Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images

After his days of rage following the release of Michael Wolff's controversial book, President Trump spent some welcome time with his allies at Camp David.

A source familiar with the discussions — involving top administration officials and congressional leaders — told me the talks were important, above all, to re-establish a "feeling of camaraderie" after a rough few days. Trump was "very loose," the source added, "telling a lot of jokes to keep people in a good place."

Highlights from the private conversations, per sources familiar with them:

  • Downgrading expectations: The group acknowledged they'd have a tough time repeating the legislative accomplishments of 2017. Everybody understands how tight the margin is in the Senate, and that it's even worse than 51-49 given several unreliable senators like Susan Collins. Another unspoken reality: two GOP senators, John McCain and Thad Cochran, have serious health problems, meaning they sometimes can't be there to vote.
  • Sell 2017: They talked about doing a better job selling what they've already accomplished — and especially the tax bill they just passed, which remains very unpopular, according to polls. McConnell highlighted the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, confirming a record number of circuit court judges, rolling back regulations, and of course the big tax bill, which also opened up Arctic drilling and repealed the Individual Mandate — the cornerstone of Obama's Affordable Care Act.
  • Bipartisan: They acknowledged reality — that with even less control over the Senate, Republicans are going to have to work with Democrats to get 60 votes to pass any major legislation this year.
  • More limited welfare reform: The group had an important conversation about defining what welfare reform means. Republicans now mostly agree that major entitlement reform won't happen this year but they're determined to push for work requirements for welfare recipients.

Big picture: Republican sources involved in the negotiations tell me they expect Democrats will not agree to a spending deal until Republicans make a deal with them to save DACA — the Obama-era program that temporarily protects immigrants who were brought to the country illegally as children. You'll hear plenty about DACA in the coming days but the reality is there's very little chance they'll agree on a DACA bill in the next 10 days.

We expect Congress will agree on yet another short-term funding deal — aka kicking the can down the road — to avoid a shutdown on Jan. 19. Then you'll probably see Republicans escalate their rhetoric, trying to blame Democrats for shutting down the government over DACA.

Go deeper

45 million Americans under winter storm watches near New England

Computer model projection showing the winds moving around the powerful East Coast storm on Saturday Jan. 29, 2022. Image: https://earth.nullschool.net

Nearly 45 million Americans are under winter weather alerts and warnings from North Carolina to northeastern Maine Thursday night, as a major winter storm threatens the region.

Why it matters: It is predicted to be the biggest blizzard since 2018 to strike the Northeast with more than 2 feet of snow possible in parts of eastern Massachusetts, according to the National Weather Service.

Judge nixes Gulf of Mexico oil leases in climate-focused ruling

Tug boats prepare to tow the semi-submersible drilling platform Noble Danny Adkins through the Port Aransas Channel into the Gulf of Mexico on December 12, 2020 in Port Aransas, Texas. Photo: Tom Pennington/Getty Images

A federal judge on Thursday canceled the Biden administration's late 2021 sale of new oil-and-gas drilling leases in the Gulf of Mexico.

Why it matters: The ruling that the greenhouse gas emissions analysis by the Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) was insufficient is a win for green groups that challenged the decision, as they seek to curb fossil fuel production.

5 hours ago - World

Zelensky questions U.S. warnings of "imminent" invasion in Biden call

Biden and Zelensky at the White House last October. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty

President Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had a back-and-forth in their call this evening about just how "imminent" the threat of a Russian invasion might be, according to three sources briefed on the call.

Why it matters: Biden has said previously that he believes Russian President Vladimir Putin will probably "move in" to Ukraine, and White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday afternoon that "an invasion could come at any time."