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Wake Up To Politics - April 4, 2018

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Wednesday, April 4, 2018. 216 days until Election Day 2018. 944 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 inboxes at wakeuptopolitics.com/subscribe!

Today is the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Proclamation from President Trump: "In remembrance of his profound and inspirational virtues, we look to do as Dr. King did while this world was privileged enough to still have him. We must learn to live together as brothers and sisters lest we perish together as fools. We must embrace the sanctity of life and love our neighbor as we love ourselves. As a united people, we must see Dr. King's life mission through and denounce racism, inhumanity, and all those things that seek to divide us."...

..."NOW, THEREFORE, I, DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim April 4, 2018, to be a day to honor Dr. King's legacy. I urge all Americans to do their part to make Dr. King's dreams of peace, unity, and justice a reality."

The Russia investigation

Special counsel Robert Mueller told President Trump's attorneys that Trump is currently a "subject" of his investigation but not a "criminal target," The Washington Post reported. "A target is a person for which there is substantial evidence linking him or her to a crime," according to The Post, while a subject "has engaged in conduct that is under investigation but there is not sufficient evidence to bring charges."

According to The Post, Mueller's team has indicated to Trump's lawyers "that they are considering writing reports on their findings in stages." The first report will likely focus on whether President Trump sought to obstructed justice in the Russia probe. The prosecutors have indicated that the final piece needed for the report is an interview with Trump.

The president's lead lawyer John Dowd resigned last month, The Post reported, amid frustration that Trump was ignoring his advice to refuse the special counsel's interview request. While Trump has publicly expressed willingness to sit for an interview with Mueller, his lawyers reportedly worry that an interview would put the president in greater legal peril and could elevate him to becoming a "target," not just a "subject," of the probe.

Dutch lawyer Alex van der Zwaan became the first person to be sentenced in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation on Tuesday. He was ordered by a federal judge to serve 30 days in prison and pay a $20,000 fine after pleading guilty to lying to investigators about his contacts with former Trump deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates. Van der Zwaan, the son-in-law of a Russian billionaire, had told investigators that his most recent contact with Gates had been in August 2016, but later admitted that he had communicated in September and October 2016 with Gates and a mutual Ukranian associate. In a court filing last week, Mueller's team said that the Ukranian was a former Russian intelligence officer.

Trump Administration

President Trump said Tuesday that he is planning to U.S. military forces to protect the southern border. "We have horrible, horrible, and very unsafe laws in the United States," he said. "We are preparing for the military to secure our border between Mexico and the United States."

The White House clarified later Tuesday night that Trump planned to deploy the National Guard to the border, a strategy also taken by President George W. Bush in 2006 and President Barack Obama in 2010. According to the White House, the president received a briefing from senior officials last week "on the growing influx of illegal immigration, drugs and violent gang members from Central America, and directed a vigorous administrative strategy to confront this threat and protect America’s national security. "

At a briefing Tuesday, the White House said, Trump and senior officials "agreed on the need to pressure Congress to urgently pass legislation to close legal loopholes exploited by criminal trafficking, narco-terrorist and smuggling organizations." But, Trump said Tuesday, until new laws are passed, "we're going to be doing things militarily. Until we can have a wall and proper security, we're going to be guarding our border with the military," which he called a "big step."

Trump has been speaking (and tweeting) all week about U.S. immigration laws. This morning, he tweeted: "Our Border Laws are very weak while those of Mexico & Canada are very strong. Congress must change these Obama era, and other, laws NOW! The Democrats stand in our way - they want people to pour into our country unchecked....CRIME! We will be taking strong action today." The White House has yet to announce what the promised "strong action" will be.

President Trump has offered his support to embattled Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, as Pruitt faces scrutiny over a Capitol Hill condo he rented for $50-a-night from the wife of a top energy lobbyist.According to multiple reports, Trump called Pruitt on Monday night and said, "Keep your head up, keep fighting. We have your back." White House chief of staff John Kelly reportedly reiterated the message in a telephone call with Pruitt on Tuesday morning.

But how much does that mean? Reminder: Trump and Kelly also expressed confidence in outgoing national security adviser H.R. McMaster just before he was fired, and similar charades have occurred with other Trump Administration officials. Ousted Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin has told interviewers that he spoke to President Trump over the phone on the morning of his firing; according to Shulkin, they discussed the VA and scheduled a meeting for the following day. Hours later, Kelly called to inform him that he was to be fired, which was soon followed by a presidential tweet.

Asked about Pruitt on Tuesday, Trump cryptically responded: "I hope he's going to be great." According to Politico, the president is "annoyed" by the negative headlines about Pruitt and could still fire him soon, although his fortunes are lifted by two factors: Trump's conservative allies viewing Pruitt as one of the most effective officials in implementing the president's agenda, and worries about adding another contentious confirmation battles to the Senate's plate.

New reports on Pruitt: The EPA chief used an obscure law to bypass the White House and give raises to top aides, The Atlantic reports... The Washington Post confirms, and adds that one of the aides helped conduct the search for Pruitt's housing... The lobbyist who Pruitt rented the condo from also helped fund his Oklahoma Attorney General campaign, per the Daily Beast...

Other Pruitt developments: Florida Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen became the first Republican members of Congress to call for Pruitt's resignation on Tuesday, as Democratic lawmakers demanded investigations into the EPA head's housing and travel practices... Pruitt told the Washington Examiner on Tuesday that he is "dumbfounded" that his rental is controversial... He tried to avoid questions by informing only Fox News about a venue change for an appearance Tuesday, per CNN...

The Trump Administration threatened to impose 25% tariffs on $46.2 billion in Chinese exports on Tuesday, publishing a list of 1,300 products that could be targeted. China responded this morning, announcing 25% tariffs on $50 billion worth of U.S. exports, including soybeans, airplanes, and cars. "We are not in a trade war with China, that war was lost many years ago by the foolish, or incompetent, people who represented the U.S.," President Trump tweeted this morning. "Now we have a Trade Deficit of $500 Billion a year, with Intellectual Property Theft of another $300 Billion. We cannot let this continue!"

President Trump attacked Amazon for the fifth time in as many days on Tuesday. According to Bloomberg, "there are no active discussions" inside the White House "about turning the power of the administration against the company." President Trump has expressed a desire to aides to "to raise the Postal Service’s rates for delivering Amazon packages," the report said, but they explained to him that Postal Service rates are set by an independent commision. Vanity Fair reported earlier this week that Trump is mulling other ways to damage the company.

Some of the other businesses that President Trump has attacked, via the New York Times, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's response...


House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is working closely with White House officials to prepare a "recession package" that "would cut billions of dollars in spending from the bipartisan funding deal" Congress just passed last month, Politico reports. Under the 1974 Budget Act, such a recession measure could be approved by simple majority vote in the Senate. It is unclear which programs could be targeted by the legislation, but President Trump complained about the large spending in the $1.3 trillion omnibus before signing it in March.

Quote of Note

"We have failed to impose sufficient costs [on Russia]," Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster said Tuesday, in his last public remarks as national security adviser. ​ His assertion that the U.S. has not done enough in response to Russia's efforts to "undermine our open societies and the foundations of international peace and stability" came just hours after President Trump seemed to say the opposite. "Nobody's been tougher on Russia than I have," Trump said at a meeting with Baltic leaders earlier in the day.

McMaster is set to be succeeded as national security adviser by former UN Ambassador John Bolton on Monday.​


President Donald Trump has no public events on his schedule today, but he is attending a "private dinner with supporters" at an undisclosed location in Washington, D.C. this evening. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders is not scheduled to hold a press briefing today; the White House has not held an on-camera briefing since last Wednesday, March 28.  

Both chambers of Congress are on recess today.

The Supreme Court is not scheduled to meet today.

*All times Eastern