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Wake Up To Politics - December 14, 2018

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Friday, December 14, 2018. 416 days until the 2020 Iowa caucuses. 690 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at gabe@wakeuptopolitics.com.

Editor's Note: This is the last edition of Wake Up To Politics of 2018. I'll be taking my semester exams next week, and then going on Winter Break -- so new newsletters for a few weeks. But don't worry: WUTP will be back in your inbox in early January 2019. Thanks for your understanding, and have a happy holidays!

The Investigations

Reports: Trump was in the room during hush money discussions: "Donald Trump was the third person in the room in August 2015 when his lawyer Michael Cohen and National Enquirer publisher David Pecker discussed ways Pecker could help counter negative stories about Trump's relationships with women, NBC News has confirmed." (NBC News)

--- In an interview with George Stephanopoulos of ABC News that airs this morning, Cohen said that "of course" Trump knew it was wrong to make the payments. "He knows the truth. I know the truth. Others know the truth," Cohen added. Cohen also underlined that Trump "directed me to make the payments," which were enacted to "help him and his campaign."

Trump inaugural under investigation: "Federal prosecutors in Manhattan are investigating whether President Trump’s 2017 inaugural committee misspent some of the record $107 million it raised from donations, people familiar with the matter said.

"The criminal probe by the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office, which is in its early stages, also is examining whether some of the committee’s top donors gave money in exchange for access to the incoming Trump administration, policy concessions or to influence official administration positions, some of the people said.

"Giving money in exchange for political favors could run afoul of federal corruption laws. Diverting funds from the organization, which was registered as a nonprofit, could also violate federal law." (Wall Street Journal)

--- "Federal prosecutors are examining whether foreigners illegally funneled donations to President Trump’s inaugural committee and a pro-Trump super PAC in hopes of buying influence over American policy, according to people familiar with the inquiry.

"The inquiry focuses on whether people from Middle Eastern nations — including Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — used straw donors to disguise their donations to the two funds. Federal law prohibits foreign contributions to federal campaigns, political action committees and inaugural funds." (New York Times)

Inside Congress

Shutdown watch: "Without President Donald Trump to worry about, a bipartisan deal would likely sail through Congress to fund the government ahead of the holidays. But with Trump fueling the border wall brinkmanship, everyone in the Capitol has basically stopped talking.

"The House and Senate left town Thursday with no strategy to avert a partial government shutdown next week, putting Congress on the brink of an intractable conflict that could drag out through New Year’s Day — furloughing hundreds of thousands of workers and costing taxpayers millions.

"Frustrated lawmakers in both parties are complaining that congressional leaders have made zero progress since Tuesday, when Trump stunned even his fellow Republicans by boasting that he would take the blame for the closure of a dozen federal agencies if he doesn’t get money for his border wall.

"Lawmakers say there is no public plan to prevent a partial government shuttering. And no secret plan either." (Politico)

Senate delivers rebukes to Trump on Saudi Arabia: "The U.S. Senate delivered a rare double rebuke to President Donald Trump on Saudi Arabia on Thursday, voting to end U.S. military support for the war in Yemen and blame the Saudi crown prince for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

..."In a historic move, Senators voted 56-41 to end U.S. military support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen’s civil war. The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people and spawned what the United Nations calls the world’s most dire human crisis, with the country on the brink of famine.

"It was the first time either chamber of Congress had backed a resolution to withdraw U.S. forces from a military engagement under the War Powers Act. That law, passed in 1973, limits the president’s ability to commit U.S. forces to potential hostilities without congressional approval." (Reuters)

Election Central

NC-09: "Weeks after winning the now-disputed 9th District congressional race, Charlotte Republican Mark Harris faces the daunting prospect of not only a new election but a new, wide-open GOP primary.

"North Carolina lawmakers opened the door to two or even three new votes Wednesday when they passed a bill that would require a new primary if the election is ordered to be redone. Whether that happens depends on an ongoing investigation into election fraud that could prompt the state Board of Elections to order a new contest." (Charlotte Observer)

--- "North Carolina congressional candidate Mark Harris (R) directed the hiring of a campaign aide now at the center of an election-fraud investigation, according to three individuals familiar with the campaign, despite warnings that the operative may have used questionable tactics to deliver votes." (Washington Post)

2020 Central: "Senator Elizabeth Warren and Senator Bernie Sanders met Wednesday night at her condominium in Washington to discuss their political intentions but did not reach any accord about coordinating their dueling presidential ambitions, according to two Democrats briefed on their discussion.

"Only the two senators were present and they stated what has become abundantly clear: that they are both seriously considering seeking the Democratic nomination in 2020. But neither Ms. Warren nor Mr. Sanders sought support from the other or tried to dissuade the other from running, said the officials familiar with the meeting." (New York Times)

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White House schedule

POTUS: At 12 p.m., President Trump receives his intelligence briefing. The president and first lady then attend two Christmas receptions: one at 5:15 p.m. and the other at 8:30 p.m.

--- Also today: President Trump is reportedly scheduled to meet with his 2016 deputy campaign manager, David Bossie, who has emerged as a leading contender in the president's search for a third White House chief of staff. Trump told reporters Thursday that he has narrowed his search down to five candidates. Per Axios, the president with former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to discuss the job on Thursday evening. CBS News also reported that Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, is under consideration for the post.

Congress schedule

Neither chamber of Congress is in session today.

Supreme Court schedule

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

*All times Eastern