I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Tuesday, December 4, 2018. 426 days until the 2020 Iowa caucuses. 700 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at email@example.com.
Key documents due from Mueller's office this week
The normally-quiet special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election, Robert Mueller, will be required to produce a trio of court filings this week that could provide new details into what he has learned about three former associates of President Donald Trump and their activities before and during the 2016 campaign.
A sentencing memo is due by midnight tonight for former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty late last year to making false statements to the FBI. In addition, a sentencing memo for Trump's former personal attorney Michael Cohen (who pleaded guilty last week to making false statements to Congress) is slated for Friday, as is a memo from Mueller's office outlining former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort's violation of their plea agreement. Mueller's prosecutors accused Manafort last week of breaching the plea agreement they inked in September by repeatedly lying to investigators.
The Flynn memo is expected to describe the crimes Flynn committed that led to his guilty plea (and any other "bad acts" he committed but wasn't charged for) and outline his cooperation in the probe; the Manafort memo will likely go into detail explaining how Manafort broke his plea agreement, as well as giving more information on other "crimes and lies" Mueller alleges were committed by the ex-Trump campaign chief.
In a rare public comment, a spokesman for the special counsel told Yahoo News that the Manafort memo "will be public," although some portions could be redacted or filed as a sealed addendum. According to NBC News, it is also likely that at least parts of the Flynn memo will be made public.
Per CNN, "If the special counsel lives up to his reputation, his filings will feature surprising revelations and rich texture to color the picture he has already painted in indictments and witness testimony of a culture of endemic dishonesty in Trump's orbit about multiple, so far unexplainable, ties with Russians."
These filings are the next stage of the detailed narrative about Trump's associates and their ties to Russia that Mueller has been building since releasing his first court filing 14 months ago; as journalist and Mueller biographer Garrett Graff put it in Axios, "he has been making his case bit by bit" all along, writing and releasing the highly-anticipated "Mueller report" in real time.
And these filings could be a sign that Mueller's investigation is nearing its final stage; according to Yahoo News, Mueller's prosecutors have told defense lawyers in recent weeks that they are "tying up loose ends" in the probe as they near the "endgame" of their investigation.
Meanwhile, as the special counsel gears up for a pivotal week in his investigation, President Donald Trump continued to comment on the probe in a series of tweets Monday morning. Trump tweeted about both Michael Cohen and his longtime political consigliere Roger Stone, two ex-aides who have taken different approaches in their participation in Mueller's investigation. While calling for Cohen (who has cooperated with Mueller) to receive a "full and complete sentence" for his "TERRIBLE" crimes, Trump applauded Stone for having the "guts" to not turn against him, citing Stone's promise in an ABC News interview over the weekend not to testify against the president.
Many legal experts said that Trump's tweet cheering Stone for refusing to testify could constitute obstruction of justice. Washington attorney George Conway, whose wife Kellyanne is a senior adviser to the president, shared Trump's tweet and added: "File under '18 U.S.C. §§ 1503, 1512,'" the federal statute that outlines witness tampering.
The statute makes it illegal to "corruptly persuade another person" (or attempt to do so) with intent to "influence, delay, or prevent the testimony of any person in an official proceeding" or "cause or induce any person to withhold testimony...from an official proceeding."
Inside the Republican Party: "When Democrats won the governor’s office in Wisconsin, it was one of the party’s most celebrated midterm successes in regaining power in the states. Now Republicans are striking back, moving to slash the power of the new governor even before he takes the oath of office.
..."It was only the latest such Republican effort across the country to try to use legislative action to counter blows the party suffered at the polls." (New York Times)
--- "Despite Big House Losses, G.O.P. Shows No Signs of Course Correction" (New York Times)
--- "'Just a lot of alarmism': Trump’s skepticism of climate science is echoed across GOP" (Washington Post)
Inside the Trump Cabinet: "Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, who was recently on the brink of losing her job, is now expected to survive the Cabinet shake-up President Donald Trump has spent weeks teasing — and she may have the caravan to thank." (Politico)
NC-09: While voting last week to certify results from last month's midterm elections, the North Carolina State Board of Elections certified the results from 12 of the state's 13th congressional districts — unanimously declining to certify the results in the 9th District, where Republican Mark Harris leads Democrat Dan McCready by just 905 votes.
The delay in certification was due to irregularities in Bladen County, which saw the state's highest rate of absentee ballot requests and an unusually large number of them unreturned. According to the Raleigh News & Observer, "the unreturned ballots are disproportionately associated with minority voters." A high number of the absentee ballots also have the same people signed as witnesses, which is rare.
Multiple voters have filed affidavits saying that someone came to their doors to collect their absentee ballots (which is illegal in North Carolina), including one voter who said they were told the person at their door "would finish [the ballot]," which only had two races filled in, "herself." A woman admitted to WSOC that she was paid by McCrae Dowless, a North Carolina political operative who was contracted by a firm paid by the Harris campaign, to illegally pick up the absentee ballots. Dowless, who has been convicted of perjury and insurance fraud in the past, is at the center of the fraud allegations in the race.
Photo of the Day
White House schedule
POTUS: At 3:30 p.m., President Trump signs S. 140, the Frank LoBiondo Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2018, into law. The bill, which authorizes the Coast Guard's budget for the next two years, is named for retiring Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ).
VP: At 12:45 p.m., Vice President Mike Pence participates in the weekly Senate Republican Conference policy lunch on Capitol Hill.
At 6:40 p.m., Pence delivers remarks at the "United in Purpose: Ziklag Group Dinner" at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Washington, D.C.
Senate: The Senate convenes at 2:30pm today. The chamber will hold no roll call votes.
House: The House will not meet today in honor of the late former President George H.W. Bush.
Supreme Court schedule
The justices will hear oral arguments in Biestek v. Berryhill and Helsinn Healthcare S.A. v. Teva Pharmaceuticals USA Inc.
*All times Eastern