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Wake Up To Politics - April 20, 2017




I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It's Thursday, April 20, 2017. 565 days until Election Day 2018. 1,293 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at gabe@wakeuptopolitics.com. Tell your friends to sign up to receive the newsletter in their inbox at wakeuptopolitics.com/subscribe!

Repeal-and-Replace, Take III? The Trump Administration and congressional Republicans have attempted to craft an Obamacare replacement at least twice since January, and it seems a third try may be approaching. The first time, their American Health Care Act went down in flames, forced to be withdrawn in March due to opposition by moderate and conservative Republicans; the second time, days of furious negotiations in early April failed to produce an acceptable plan.

Will the third time be the charm for the GOP? CNN reported Wednesday that the White House is "exploring whether to take one more stab" at health care before the Trump Administration's 100-day mark, which is on April 29. A senior administration official told the network they would not have to "rewrite the bill": instead, that the problem is "a total trust gap," the official claimed. "As soon as we solve that, we can have a vote," the official said, adding that it could very well happen before the 1000-day milestone.

Later Wednesday night, the Huffington Post reported that the conservative House Freedom Caucus and moderate Tuesday Group "are nearing a deal" on health care that they believe could pass both houses of Congress. An outline of the deal, first reported by HuffPo and printed by Politico this morning, shows a compromise between the two factions: in exchange for states being allowed to obtain waivers for Obamacare's "community rating provision," which stops insurers from hiking premiums for people with pre-existing conditions, the 2010 law's Essential Health Benefits, which make certain requirements of insurance plans, would remain.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), who is leading a congressional delegation to London, confirmed that negotiations were close to producing a bill. "We're in the midst of negotiating sort of finishing touches," he said.

Both houses of Congress are on recess until next week, making passage before the 100-day mark extremely difficult, especially with another deadline looming on April 29: the expiration of government funding, which could force a government shutdown.

Chaffetz Not Running for Re-Election Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) announced on Wednesday that he will not run for re-election in 2018. Chaffetz, 50, surprised many with his news: the Utahn has long been seen as a rising star in the Republican Party, and wields considerable power in Washington as chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

"Since late 2003 I have been fully engaged with politics as a campaign manager, a chief of staff, a candidate and as a Member of Congress. I have long advocated public service should be for a limited time and not a lifetime or full career," he wrote on Facebook, announcing the news. "Many of you have heard me advocate, 'Get in, serve, and get out.' After more than 1,500 nights away from my home, it is time."

Chaffetz got his start in politics as campaign manager for future presidential candidate Jon Huntsman's 2004 gubernatorial campaign, and then as Huntsman's chief of staff upon their victory. He served in Congress since 2009, after challenging a moderate Republican in the primary. Chaffetz has held the Oversight gavel since 2015, beating three more senior colleagues to become a committee chairman after just three terms, which is very rare.

As chairman of Oversight, Chaffetz became known for his dogged probes of the Obama Administration and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. He has been criticized recently for declining to investigate scandals involving President Trump, who Chaffetz voted for in 2016 after announcing he wouldn't upon the Access Hollywood tapes' release. Chaffetz routinely won re-election with over 70% of the vote, but signs of his popularity cracking have been evident recently: a town hall he held in February gained national headlines after attendees questioned his decisions as chairman. The congressman said the reception was tantamount to "bullying and an attempt at intimidation," accusing the protestors of being paid.

In his Facebook post, Chaffetz batted down any rumors of why he might be stepping down: "I have no ulterior motives. I am healthy. I am confident I would continue to be re-elected by large margins. I have the full support of Speaker Ryan to continue as Chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee." Instead, he termed his move as "a personal decision to return to the private sector."

However, he wouldn't rule out another run for office, writing: "I may run again for public office, but not in 2018." When asked by a Utah reporter if he planned to run for Governor in 2020 (which has been a source of speculation before and after this announcement), Chaffetz answered: "Maybe."

--- BuzzFeed's Jim Dalrymple II: "A source close to [2016 Independent presidential candidate] Evan McMullin tells me he's considering running to fill Jason Chaffetz's congressional seat.

--- The Atlantic's McKay Coppins: "Chaffetz decision shocked Utah GOP: 'The political class..is reeling right now. Nobody has any idea what’s going on.' ... "When I interviewed Chaffetz just last month, he suggested he would serve out his 6-year term as oversight chairman." ... "Chaffetz gave no indication to allies that he might not run again. Even top elected officials in Utah were shocked." ... "Senior Republican in Utah tells me it's not clear yet if Chaffetz will finish out his term or decide to resign early." Read McKay's March profile of Chaffetz, in which he writes about Chaffetz' fortunes dropping in the Trump era, without Clinton as his foil.

Ricketts Withdraws from Commerce Nomination Chicago Cubs co-owner Todd Ricketts has withdrawn his nomination to be Deputy Commerce Secretary, he confirmed to the Chicago Sun-Times on Wednesday. Ricketts is the brother of Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts and the son of Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts, a billionaire GOP donor who gave at least $1 million to President Trump's campaign and allied groups in 2016.

Ricketts' nomination was withdrawn due to his considerable financial holdings; he failed vetting by the Office of Government Ethics, as Ricketts was willing to divest his personal portfolio but was unable to remove the conflict with his family's ownership of the Cubs and Ameritrade. "I offer my continued support for President Trump and his administration, and the important work they are doing to promote economic opportunity" he told the Sun-Times." I hope there are other opportunities to contribute to his administration in the future.”

President Donald Trump nominated Ricketts on November 30, during the transition; he would have needed Senate confirmation. According to the Washington Post, Trump now has nominees for just two Commerce Department posts (in addition to the Secretary, who has been confirmed); in addition, he has a nominee for Deputy Secretary in exactly half of the Cabinet Departments, although zero No.2's have been confirmed.

The President's Schedule At 10:30am, President Trump will receive his daily intelligence briefing in the Oval Office.

A12pm, President Trump will continue his "American First" policy campaign, signing a memorandum directing the Commerce Department to conduct a review "into whether imports of foreign-made steel are hurting U.S. national," according to Reuters. The directive will cite the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, which allows the president to restrict imports if national security is at risk. Reuters also reported that steel CEOs will join Trump for an Oval Office signing event.

At 2pm, President Trump will meet with National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster in the Oval Office for the second day in a row, as McMaster continues to cement control over the National Security Council.

At 3pm, President Trump will welcome Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni of Italy to the White House. They will meet in the Oval Office at 3:05pm, followed by an expanded bilateral meeting in the Cabinet Room at 3:15pm. The two leaders will hold a joint press conference at 3:50pm in the east Room. According to White House press secretary Sean Spicer, Gentiloni and Trump will discuss the G-7 summit in Italy next month, which the President plans to attend, "and a range of issues of mutual concern."

Vice President's Schedule Vice President Mike Pence will travel to Jakarta, Indonesia today, as part of his 10-day tour of Asia. While in Indonesia, Pence will meet with President Joko Widod, Vice President Jusuf Kalla, and the Secretary General of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. He is also scheduled to visit the Istiqlal Mosque, the largest mosque in Southeast Asia, and to "participate in a listening session with U.S. and Indonesian business leaders and give remarks to the business community," according to the White House.

DRIP, DRIP, DRIP Three stories from this week on the continuing Russia investigation....

CNN, Tuesday: "FBI used dossier allegations to bolster Trump-Russia investigation" "The FBI last year used a dossier of allegations of Russian ties to Donald Trump's campaign [which was reported on by CNN earlier this year and published by BuzzFeed] as part of the justification to win [FISA warrant] approval to secretly monitor a Trump associate, according to US officials briefed on the investigation."

New York Times, Wednesday: "Trump Adviser's Visit to Moscow Got the F.B.I.'s Attention" A "trip last July [by then-Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page to Moscow, when he gave a Russia-friendly trip] was a catalyst for the F.B.I. investigation into connections between Russia and President Trump’s campaign, according to current and former law enforcement and intelligence officials."

Reuters, Wednesday: "Putin-linked think tank drew up plan to sway 2016 U.S. election" "A Russian government think tank controlled by Vladimir Putin developed a plan to swing the 2016 U.S. presidential election to Donald Trump and undermine voters’ faith in the American electoral system, three current and four former U.S. officials told Reuters."