4 min read

Wake Up To Politics - December 7, 2018

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Friday, December 7, 2018. 423 days until the 2020 Iowa caucuses. 697 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at gabe@wakeuptopolitics.com.

The Russia investigation

Today could be another big day of revelations about special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation. Mueller's prosecutors are scheduled to file two documents: an explanation of their accusation that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort lied and breached their cooperation deal with him, and a sentencing memo outlining their recommendation for how former Trump personal attorney Michael Cohen should be punished for the crime he pleaded guilty to last week.

The filings could give the public new insight into the special counsel's investigation, or like Mueller's sentencing memo for former national security adviser Michael Flynn earlier this week, they could be heavily redacted and fail to reveal much.

Perhaps in anticipation of today's court filings, President Trump has renewed his attacks on the Russia investigation in the past 24 hours. In a tweet on Thursday morning, he said the "phony Russia Witch Hunt" constituted "Presidential Harassment" and was to blame for his low approval ratings. Later Thursday, he tweeted a quote from Jerome Corsi, a conservative author and conspiracy theorist who is under investigation for communications with longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone and WikiLeaks.

He then launched into a five-part tweetstorm this morning, reprising many of his greatest hits in pointing out Mueller's alleged conflicts of interest (his relationship with former FBI director James Comey, past prosecutions and political donations by members of his team, etc.) and repeating his other standard lines of attack against the investigation, while also referring to his own deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, "totally conflicted."

--- Also today: Former FBI director James Comey will testify privately before members of the House Judiciary Committee and Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Comey was subpoenaed by the panels' outgoing Republican leadership; he sought to fight the summons in court, aiming to testify in an open hearing, but dropped the challenge after Republicans agreed to release a transcript of the interview within 24 hours.

--- Related: "The frantic scramble before Mueller got the job," a new CNN report about the eight days in between Trump's firing of Comey and Rosenstein's appointment of Mueller. According to the report, then-acting FBI director Andrew McCabe opened an investigation into potential obstruction of justice by Trump even before Mueller was appointed.

The Trump Administration

President Trump appears close to naming new appointees to three Cabinet-level posts...

UN Ambassador: President Trump has selected State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert as his next Ambassador to the United Nations and could make the announcement as early as today, Bloomberg News and other news outlets reported Thursday. Nauert would succeed Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor who has served in the role since the beginning of Trump's administration.

If confirmed, Nauert would enter the high-level posting with little experience in foreign policy or diplomacy: before joining the State Department as top spokesperson in April 2017, she spent two decades as a television anchor at ABC News and Fox News. From 2012 until joining the administration, Nauert had been a co-anchor on "Fox & Friends," a morning show President Trump is known to watch frequently.

Attorney General: Former attorney general William Barr is President Trump's top candidate to take over the Justice Department, the Washington Post and other news outlets reported Thursday. If selected, it would be Barr's second stint in the position, having served as attorney general from 1991 to 1993 under George H.W. Bush.

Barr would succeed Matt Whitaker, who has served as Acting Attorney General since Jeff Sessions' resignation last month; he would also seize oversight of the Mueller investigation, which he has criticized in the past for including too many prosecutors who have donated to Democratic campaigns.

White House chief of staff: John Kelly is expected to resign as White House chief of staff "in the coming days," CNN reported this morning. According to the network, Kelly and the president "have stopped speaking in recent days" and Trump is now "actively discussing a replacement plan." The leading contender for Kelly's job has long been Nick Ayers, Vice President Mike Pence's chief of staff. Kelly, Trump's second chief of staff, has served in the position since July 2017; he has long been rumored to be on his way out, despite saying earlier this year he planned to stay on through the 2020 elections.

Axios had reported earlier this morning that Kelly's departure is "imminent."

Election Central

2018 Central: "Dan McCready, the Democrat running for Congress in the disputed 9th District, has renounced his concession.

"His Thursday announcement came amid allegations of absentee ballot tampering and other interference in Bladen and Robeson counties that appear to have helped Republican Mark Harris, who is ahead by just 905 votes in unofficial returns.

"The controversy has raised the possibility that the N.C. Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement will call a new election. McCready issued a forceful statement Thursday, calling on Harris to detail his knowledge of suspect activities on behalf of his campaign." (Charlotte Observer)

--- Also on Thursday: Rep. David Valadao (R-CA) conceded to Democrat T.J. Cox in California's 21st congressional district, cementing Democrats' 40th House pickup of the cycle. North Carolina's 9th district is now the only undecided race in the nation.

2020 Central: The latest...

  • "Democratic 2020 campaign revving up quickly" (Associated Press)
  • "Democrats are making moves behind the scenes to gear up for 2020" (CNN)
  • "Democratic convulsions shake 2020 lineup" (Politico)

To keep track of what all the potential 2020 Democratic presidential contenders are saying about running for president, check out this handy table via Wake Up To Politics.

Do you like Wake Up To Politics? Share it with your colleagues, friends, and family! Please forward this newsletter to them and tell them to sign up at wakeuptopolitics.com/subscribe!

White House schedule

POTUS: President Trump travels to Kansas City, Missouri today. At 12:50pm, the president addresses the 2018 Project Safe Neighborhoods National Conference in Kansas City.

After returning to Washington, the president and first lady will have dinner with senior White House staff at 7:30pm.

VP: Vice President Mike Pence has no public events scheduled.

Congress schedule

Neither house of Congress is in session.

Supreme Court schedule

The Supreme Court justices meet for their weekly Friday conference.

*All times Eastern