Wake Up To Politics - April 5, 2018
I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Thursday, April 5, 2018. 215 days until Election Day 2018. 943 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at email@example.com. Tell your friends to sign up to receive the newsletter in their inboxes at wakeuptopolitics.com/subscribe!
President Trump signed a memorandum on Wednesday formally directing the Secretary of Defense to deploy the National Guard to help protect the U.S.-Mexico border. The move followed the president's announcement the day before that "we are going to be guarding our border with the military," which reportedly surprised some of his advisers. The Department of Homeland Security announced in a statement that the National Guard deployment "will serve as an immediate deterrent while dramatically enhancing operational control of the U.S. border," and that it would be in coordination with border state governors.
Details about the deployment (the number of troops, the cost, the length of the deployment, where they will go) were not immediately clear, although the Associated Press reported that lawmakers expect 300 to 1,200 troops will be deployed at a cost of $60 million to $120 million.
Trump's memorandum said the deployment is needed due to a "drastic surge of illegal activity on the southern border"; however, last year, the number of illegal immigrants were caught at the border was the lowest since 1971, according to the U.S. Border Patrol.
The United States will not immediately end its military operation in Syria, although President Trump has reportedly ordered his commanders to withdraw U.S. troops soon. "The military mission to eradicate ISIS in Syria is coming to a rapid end, with ISIS being almost completely destroyed," White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement Wednesday. "The United States and our partners remain committed to eliminating the small ISIS presence in Syria that our forces have not already eradicated." According to the Washington Post, while that statement signaled that the withdrawal will not be immediate, Trump directed his military leaders to get U.S. troops out "as soon as possible" in a Tuesday meeting.
According to CNN, Trump grew irritated at the meeting when his national security team advised him that immediate withdrawal would be unwise but couldn't provide a timetable for when American forces could exit. "I want to get out. I want to bring our troops back home," Trump told reporters Tuesday.
Big picture: "On Foreign Policy, President Trump Reverts to Candidate Trump" (New York Times); "Trump’s easy campaign promises run into the difficulties of reality" (Washington Post)
Asked on Wednesday if President Trump is OK with Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt's controversial housing situation, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders responded: "The president's not. We're reviewing the situation." Other Pruitt developments:
- Pruitt pushed back on criticism in a Fox News interview on Wednesday, defending his $50-a-day rental of a D.C. condo from the wife of an energy lobbyist and claiming he had been unaware of pay raises for two longtime aides which were awarded over the White House's objections. Pruitt said that he found out about the pay raises this week and didn't know who made the decision.
- The EPA's top ethics official has clarified his initial analysis of Pruitt's housing situation, saying he didn't have all the facts when he determined that the rental was within federal ethics regulations on gifts, according to a memo obtained by CNN.
- In a phone call this week, White House chief of staff John Kelly "impressed upon Pruitt that, though he has the full public confidence of President Trump for now, the flow of negative and damning stories needed to stop soon," The Daily Beast reports.
- Pruitt and his allies "are on a mission to save his job," Politico reports.
Special counsel Robert Mueller's team has stopped and questioned multiple Russian oligarchs during their travels to the U.S., CNN reported. Mueller's investigators have stopped at least two oligarchs during recent trips to the U.S.; one was also searched upon landing at a New York airport. Mueller's team also reportedly submitted an informal document and interview request to a third oligarch. "The situations have one thing in common: Investigators are asking whether wealthy Russians illegally funneled cash donations directly or indirectly into Donald Trump's presidential campaign and inauguration," according to CNN.
Related: The Trump Administration is expected to impose additional sanctions targeting Russian oligarchs with ties to Vladimir Putin by Friday, the Washington Post reports.
George Nader, a Lebanese-American businessman and adviser to the United Arab Emirates with ties to former Trump aides who is also a cooperating witness in the Mueller investigation, also has ties to Russia, according to the New York Times. Mueller's investigators have been probing a series of meetings Nader was involved with during the Trump transition, including a meeting in the Seychelles with Russian businessman Kirill Dmitriev and informal Trump adviser Erik Prince and a meeting in New York with hedge fund manager Richard Gerson, Jared Kushner, and Steve Bannon. According to the Times report, Nader has had dealings with Russia dating at least to 2012.
Ohio governor John Kasich, a 2016 presidential candidate, returned to New Hampshire on Wednesday, amid speculation that he may launch a primary challenge against President Trump in 2020. Interesting: Kasich is framing his potential 2020 pitch around millennials, he signaled to BuzzFeed in an interview this week, in which he mentioned everything from the HQ app to YouTuber Logan Paul to Justin Bieber.
Facebook announced on Wednesday that data from as many as 87 million users may have been improperly shared with Cambridge Analytica, a data firm tied to the Trump campaign. The company had previously said 50 million users were impacted by the breach. According to the Wednesday announcement, "most" of Facebook's 2 billion users have had their data collected by "malicious actors" in some way. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is scheduled to testify before the Senate Judiciary and Commerce Committee in a joint hearing on April 10, followed by testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on April 11.
Quote of Note
"This is going to be a challenging election year. We know the wind is going to be in our face. We don’t know whether it’s going to be a Category 3, 4 or 5." — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on the 2018 midterms in an interview with Kentucky Today.
President Donald Trump travels to White Sulphur, West Virginia today, where he will hold a 2:25pm roundtable discussion to promote the Republican tax cuts legislation. The visit marks Trump's fourth visit to West Virginia since taking office; he will be joined by Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-WV).
Both chambers of Congress are on recess today.
The Supreme Court is not scheduled to meet today.
*All times Eastern