Our daily digest is an update on the stories we’re following in Texas politics today. Here’s what we’re working on for 7pm:

 

Trump, McConnell Pledge Unity:

In a wide-ranging press conference at the White House Monday, President Donald Trump said he and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are “closer than ever before.” Trump said McConnell has been a “friend of mine for a long time” and that they are “fighting for the same thing.”

Trump also said Republicans are close on health care legislation and that they are working together on a tax overhaul.

We’ll have a breakdown of the expansive press conference at 7.

 

Tillerson on North Korea:

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson supports diplomatic efforts with North Korea and said the President agrees and is not seeking to go to war.

But Tillerson mentioned one exception in an interview on CNN’s State of the Union.

“He has made it clear to me to continue my diplomatic efforts, which we are and we will — as I’ve told others, those diplomatic efforts will continue until the first bomb drops,” Tillerson said.

President Trump said weeks ago that Tillerson was “wasting his time” trying to negotiate with North Korea.

The President also threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea as it continues efforts to develop nuclear capabilities.

Tillerson said the President’s initial comments were only to “motivate action.”

 

Judge Says Abbott Wrong to Remove Mock Nativity:

(AP) A federal judge has ruled that Gov. Greg Abbott engaged in improper censorship when he ordered a mock Nativity scene be removed from the Capitol in 2015.

U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks ruled late Friday that Abbott violated the First Amendment’s free-speech guarantee.

The Austin American-Statesman reports that Sparks also said the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation can seek to depose Abbott about his motives for removing the exhibit.

The foundation sued Abbott last year over the removal of the display, which showed Benjamin Franklin, the Statue of Liberty, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington peering down at the Bill of Rights in a manger.

Abbott called it a spiteful message of “tasteless sarcasm.”

The State Preservation Board had approved the display, which was set up in the Capitol’s basement rotunda a week before Christmas.

 

Dallas Businessman Discusses Why He’s Running for Texas Governor:

Texas Democrats continue to insist they’ll soon have a viable Democratic gubernatorial candidate. But there are already a number of challengers lining up to take on Republican incumbent Governor Greg Abbott.

Jeffrey Payne is a Dallas-based businessman who owns a gay leather bar and four other businesses including a court reporting firm. He doesn’t have a background in politics but told our Karina Kling during an afternoon interview Monday that the state needs someone with leadership skills that knows how to run a business.

He also said the main reason he got into the race was conservative Republicans pushing the so-called bathroom bill that would regulate where transgender Texans can use the restroom.

“We are wasting yet more time and energy on a bathroom bill. At the end of the day it was an issue that was created that wasn’t an issue,” Payne said.

Payne said he does understand Democrats’ predicament but called himself a viable candidate.

“I am outside the box. But that box hasn’t worked in 24 years so maybe it’s time to look outside the box,” Payne said.

Payne’s put in $2.5 million of his own money to his campaign and said donations are starting to come in.

Watch the full interview tonight at 7.

 

On the Agenda:

The Quorum Report’s Harvey Kronberg is in with his analysis of the race for governor, Speaker Joe Straus’ new business committee and the ongoing battle over remaking the Alamo.

 

Capital Tonight airs weeknights at 7 on Spectrum News.

 

Posted by Karina Kling

@KarinaKling