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Wake Up To Politics - December 11, 2018

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Tuesday, December 11, 2018. 419 days until the 2020 Iowa caucuses. 693 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at gabe@wakeuptopolitics.com.

Trump, Democratic leaders to meet as shutdown threat looms

President Donald Trump sits down today with the top two Democrats in Congress, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), to discuss a deal over government funding. Lawmakers have until midnight on December 21 to pass a funding bill or a partial government shutdown will take place. (About 25 percent of the government is about to run out of funding; most agencies have already been funded through September 30.)

Trump and the Democrats are, again, divided over how much money the president will get for his proposed Mexican border wall. Trump and his congressional allies are demanding that the funding bill include $5 billion towards construction of the wall. According to the Washington Post, Schumer and Pelosi are willing to offer him $1.3 billion. Schumer had previously suggested he would accept $1.6 billion in wall funding, but House Democrats said it would be too much for them to support.

Both sides have already drawn their battle lines ahead of today's meeting. In a joint statement on Monday evening, Schumer and Pelosi already place the blame for a potential shutdown on Republicans, tagging it "a Trump shutdown."

"Republicans still control the House, the Senate, and the White House, and they have the power to keep the government open," they said. "Our country cannot afford a Trump Shutdown, especially at this time of economic uncertainty. This holiday season, the president knows full well that his wall proposal does not have the votes to pass the House and Senate, and should not be an obstacle to a bipartisan agreement."

Meanwhile, in a five-part tweetstorm this morning, President Trump claims that congressional Democrats "want Open Borders for anyone to come in" and "do NOT want Border Security" due to "strictly political reasons and because they have been pulled so far left." He also doubled down on his false claim, which the Washington Post recently dubbed a "bottomless Pinocchio," that the U.S. has already begun building the border wall, and threatened that "the Military will build the remaining sections of the Wall" if "Democrats do not give us the votes to secure our Country."

Republican congressional leaders, who will not be in attendance today, have so far held firm in support of Trump's demand. "The number is $5 billion," House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) said in a Fox News interview Monday.

Trump's meetings with the Democratic leaders have a checkered history. In the first funding battle of his administration, in September 2017, the president went around his own party's leaders to strike a deal with the pair he then referred to as "Chuck and Nancy." But since then, after White House meetings earlier this year failed to stop agreements on DACA or gun control from falling through, Democrats have begun to feel burned.

"His word isn't good," Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) told Politico of the president. "Within 48 hours he reverses himself. It's very difficult to enter into a long-term agreement."

Reports: Accused Russian agent Maria Butina pleads guilty

Maria Butina, the 30-year-old Russian woman accused of secretly attempting to infiltrate the American conservative movement, has agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy and cooperate with federal, state, and local authorities, according to multiple news outlets.

Butina is the first Russian national to plead guilty to working to influence American politics since the 2016 presidential election. Per ABC News, she admits in the guilty plea that she and an unnamed "U.S. Person 1," identified by ABC as Republican operative Paul Erickson, "agreed and conspired with a Russian government official ("Russain Official") and at least one other person, for Butina to act in the United States under the direction of the Russian Official without prior notification to the Attorney General." Erickson, who managed Pat Buchanan's 1992 presidential campaign and advised Mitt Romney's 2008 and 2012 campaigns, helped introduce Butina to influential figures in the National Rifle Association (NRA) and the Republican Party, including then-candidate Donald Trump. Butina and Erickson were also involved in a multiyear romantic relationship.

Inside the White House

President Trump's search for a third White House chief of staff continues. While some candidates (including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer) have already put out signals that they would rather keep their current positions than take over Trump's chaotic West Wing, at least one contender has embraced the speculation about him. "Serving as Chief of Staff would be an incredible honor," Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), chairman of the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus and one of Trump's top allies on Capitol Hill, told Politico on Monday.

According to Axios, the president has been asking confidants in recent days what they think about the idea of Meadows as his top aide. Others under consideration reportedly include Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and former Trump deputy campaign manager David Bossie.

Trump is searching for a new candidate to succeed John Kelly after his top choice, vice presidential chief of staff Nick Ayers, turned him down. According to the New York Times and the Washington Post, Trump had no Plan B after Ayers, leaving him scrambling to find an alternative.

--- "Amid chief of staff search, Trump increasingly anxious over political future" (CNN)

--- "'Siege warfare': Republican anxiety spikes as Trump faces growing legal and political perils" (Washington Post)

The Rundown

Inside Congress: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and the group of Democrats who oppose her speakership bid are "discussing a proposal to cap her time as speaker to four years," Politico reports. The deal, which would clear the way for Pelosi to clinch the House gavel, could also include term limits for her top deputies, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and Assistant Democratic Leader Jim Clyburn (D-SC).

Person of the Year: TIME's 2018 Person of the Year is killed and imprisoned journalists, the magazine's editor-in-chief said on the "Today" show this morning. "The Guardians," as the magazine is calling them, include slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the victims of the Capital Gazette shooting.

Supreme Court: Justices Brett Kavanaugh and John Roberts sided with the Supreme Court's liberal wing on Monday to decline to hear a case brought by Republican-led states seeking to block Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood. The move leaves in place two lower court opinions that struck down actions the states took against Planned Parenthood.

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White House schedule

POTUS: At 11:30 a.m., President Trump meets with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).

At 3:45 p.m., he signs H.R. 390, the "Iraq and Syria Genocide Relief and Accountability Act of 2018," into law.

VP: Vice President Mike Pence will join President Trump for his meeting with Democratic leadership and for the bill signing. In addition, at 12:45 p.m., he will attend the weekly Senate Republican Conference lunch on Capitol Hill.

Congress schedule

Senate: The Senate convenes at 10 a.m. today. At 11:30 a.m., the chamber will vote on confirmation of Justin Muzinich to be Deputy Secretary of the Treasury, before recessing from 12:30 p.m. to 2:15 p.m. for weekly caucus meetings.

House: The House convenes at 10 a.m. today. The chamber will vote on 13 pieces of legislation:

  1. S. 943 – Johnson-O’Malley Supplemental Indian Education Program Modernization Act
  2. H.R. 6140 – Advanced Nuclear Fuel Availability Act, as amended
  3. H.R. 7217 – IMPROVE Act
  4. S. 2465 – Sickle Cell Disease and Other Heritable Blood Disorders Research, Surveillance, Prevention, and Treatment Act of 2018
  5. S. 3029 – PREEMIE Reauthorization Act of 2018
  6. H.R. 6615 – Traumatic Brain Injury Program Reauthorization Act of 2018, as amended
  7. H.R. 1318 – Preventing Maternal Deaths Act of 2018, as amended
  8. H.Res. 1091 – Calling on the Government of Burma to release Burmese journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo sentenced to seven years imprisonment after investigating attacks against civilians by Burma’s military and security forces, and for other purposes, as amended
  9. H.Res. 1149 – Recognizing that the United States-Republic of Korea alliance serves as a linchpin of regional stability and bilateral security, and exemplifies the broad and deep military, diplomatic, economic, and cultural ties shared between the United States and the Republic of Korea
  10. H.Res. 1157 – Reaffirming the strong commitment of the United States to the countries and territories of the Pacific Islands region
  11. H.Res. 1165 – Condemning the Assad regime and its backers for their continued support of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria
  12. H.Res. 1035 – Expressing opposition to the completion of Nord Stream II, and for other purposes, as amended
  13. H.Res. 1162 – Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives with respect to Ukraine, and for other purposes

--- Also today: Google CEO Sundar Pichai will testify before Congress for the first time at a 10 a.m. House Judiciary Committee hearing

Supreme Court schedule

The Supreme Court does not have a conference or oral arguments scheduled until January 4.

*All times Eastern