Wake Up To Politics - February 13, 2017
Monday, February 13, 2017
631 Days until Election Day 2018
1,370 Days until Election Day 2020
Good morning! Reporting from WUTP world HQ (in my bedroom), I'm Gabe Fleisher: this is your wake up call.
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White House Watch
- Staff Shakeup Possible for Trump White House Just over three weeks after taking office, President Donald Trump is reportedly already mulling staff changes at the White House, amid a chaotic start to his tenure.
- According to numerous reports, the first to go would be National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general. The Wall Street Journal reported on the second day of the Trump Administration that Flynn was being investigated by intelligence officials for communications with Russian officials during the transition. In a Washington Post report released Thursday, nine national security officials confirmed that intelligence agencies interpreted the calls as discussing U.S. sanctions on Russia, a violation of the Logan Act (which forbids private citizens from negotiating with foreign governments).
- CNN reported Sunday that Flynn still "has no plans to resign and no expectations that he will be fired," although a senior administration official told the network and the Washington Post that "the knives are out." Vice President Mike Pence, who denied the communications on national television, is reportedly among those angry about being misled by Flynn. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee ranking member Elijah Cummings (D-MD) called for an investigation of Flynn on ABC's "This Week" on Sunday.
- According to the Associated Press, Flynn's fate is "uncertain," and President Trump - who has yet to publicly comment on the situation - is "troubled" by the decision to fire one of his most loyal supporters. The New York Times also reported on Sunday about the "chaos and anxious" feelings inside the National Security Council amid uncertainty over Flynn. According to the Times, council staff read the President's Twitter posts to start their morning, and struggle to keep up for the rest of the day, uninformed about Trump's calls with foreign leaders and executive orders.
- The Wall Street Journal reports that many administration officials are hoping Flynn resigns so the President does not have to fire him; potential candidates to replace him include National Security Council chief of staff Keith Kellogg. WSJ added that White House chief of staff Reince Priebus is leading a review of whether to maintain the advisor.
- However, Priebus' position at the White House may also be shaky. Politico reported on Sunday that President Trump is "frustrated over his administration’s rocky start" and "complaining to friends and allies about some of his most senior aides," raising questions that he may initiate a larger shakeup. According to the report, Priebus' future may be in jeopardy, with some in Trump's orbit considering potential replacements, including senior counselor Kellyanne Conway, deputy chief of staff Rick Dearborn, and lobbyist David Urban.
- Priebus also may have been diminished after comments by Newsmax Media CEO Christopher Ruddy, a friend of Trump's who just met with the President on Friday. "There's a lot of weakness coming out of the chief of staff," Ruddy said on CNN's "Reliable Sources" on Sunday. Ruddy added: "He clearly doesn't know how the federal agencies work. He doesn't have a real good system. He doesn't know how the communications flow."
- Trump is reportedly also concerned about press secretary Sean Spicer, whose issues with the press corps have ben parodied by Melissa McCarthy on "Saturday Night Live." Conway is also in trouble, with bipartisan calls to investigate her after urging viewers in a Fox News interview to "go buy Ivanka's stuff."
- According to Politico, the controversial executive order on immigration is the top issue where Trump "feels his aides have let him down." The Ninth Circuit Cour of Appeals refused to reinstate the order in a Thursday ruling, siding with a Seattle judge who halted the "travel ban" earlier this month.
- White House senior advisor Stephen Miller appeared on four Sunday shows to defend the Administration. While Miller refused to answer questions on Flynn, he gave some hints as to the White House's plans to continue with Trump's ban on immigration from seven majority-Muslim countries. "Right now we are considering and pursuing all options," Miller said on "Fox News Sunday," including continuing a legal fight over the current order or drafting a new executive action "designed to prevent terrorist infiltration of our country."
- The President's Schedule President Trump hosts his second foreign leader at the White House today, after meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday. Trump and Abe spent the weekend at the "Winter White House," the President's Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida.
- The President begins his day with a 9am intelligence briefing in the Oval Office, followed by a 9:45am phone call with Nigerian President Muhammadu Bhuari and a 10:10am call with South African President Jacob Zuma.
- At 11am, President Trump will meet with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the Oval Office and then will participate in a bilateral meeting with the Prime Minister. Trade will be the Nearly two-thirds of Canadian trade is with the United States, placing the issue front and center for the meetings between the 45-year-old left-wing Prime Minister and the 70-year-old populist President. One item likely not on the agenda? Refugees: Trudeau has accepted 40,000 Syrian refugees into Canada, but Bloomberg reports that he is not expected to bring the issue up at the meeting with Trump, whose controversial travel ban also permanently ends the United States' Syrian refugee program.
- At 12:15pm, President Trump and Prime Minister Trudeau will participate in a roundtable discussion on "the advancement of women entrepreneurs and business leaders" in the Cabinet Room. At the roundtable, the President and Prime Minister will launch the "Canada-United States Council for Advancement of Women Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders," to foster a connection between women business leaders in the two countries. First Daughter Ivanka Trump is expected to attend the roundtable, according to the Associated Press, underlining her influential role in the White House as an advocate for women's issues.
- At 12:50pm, Trump and Trudeau will hold a working luncheon in the State Dining Room; at 2pm, they will participate in a joint press conference in the East Room.
- Finally, the President will meet with newly-elected Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel and co-chairman Bob Paduchik at 3pm, participate in a pinning ceremony for Major Ricardo Turner at 3:45pm, and will speak with Maureen Scalia (widow of the late Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia) by phone at 4:15pm.
Capitol Hill News
- Today in the Senate The upper chamber will vote to confirm two more Trump Cabinet nominees today. The Senate convenes for the day at 12pm, and then launches into seven hours of debate over Steven Mnuchin's nomination to be Secretary of the Treasury. Following a confirmation vote on Mnuchin, the Senate will vote on David Shulkin's nomination to be the Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Only 10 minutes of debate will be held before the Shulkin vote, per an agreement between Senate leaders.
- Mnuchin is a hedge fund manager without any government experience; he has come under fire from Democrats for his record at the bank OneWest, which foreclosed on over 36,000 homeowners while he was CEO, according to Reuters. Mnuchin's tenure as an executive at Goldman Sachs has also raised eyebrows, due to President Trump's campaign attacks on opponents like Hillary Clinton and Ted Cruz for their relationships to the bank and promise to "drain the swamp."
- "Steve Mnuchin is a world-class financier, banker, and businessman, and has played a key role in developing our plan to build a dynamic, booming economy that will create millions of jobs,” Trump said in a statement announcing the nomination. “His expertise and pro-growth ideas make him the ideal candidate to serve as Secretary of the Treasury." The Senate Finance Committee approved Mnuchin's nomination earlier this month in an 11-0 vote, with the all of the Democrats on the panel boycotting the vote. In a cloture vote after 2am on Friday, Mnuchin's nomination was advanced by a 53-46 vote, with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) joining all 52 Republicans in favor of the nominee.
- If Mnuchin is confirmed, as expected, he will join Trump's Cabinet in a leading role, charged with crafting the President's promised reforms of the tax code and government regulations.
- Shulkin's nomination is much less controversial: he was approved 14-0 in committee last week, and a unanimous consent agreement allowed him to bypass a cloture vote on the Senate floor. The Secretary-designate currently serves as Undersecretary for Health at VA, appointed to the job by President Obama and confirmed unanimously in 2015. Shulkin also has decades of experience leading private hospitals; however, he would be the first Secretary of Veterans Affairs without military experience.
- Today in the House The lower chamber meets at 12pm today, and is scheduled to consider four bills, all related to veterans affairs:
- the Working to Integrate Networks Guaranteeing Member Access Now (WINGMAN) Act, granting congressional offices access to the VA's electronic veterans benefits database
- the Honoring Investments in Recruiting and Employing (HIRE) Vets Act, establishing a HIRE Vets Medallion to be rewarded annually to businesses that employ and support veterans
- the Boosting Rates of American Veterans Employment (BRAVE) Act, which directs the VA to give preference to contractors based on the percentage of veterans they employ
- and a bill to rename a VA health care center in Pennsylvania after author Abie Abraham, a World War II veteran and longtime volunteer at the VA center
- The Question Axios reported this morning that President Trump is mulling a "smooth transition" for chief of staff Reince Priebus by installing him in the Cabinet instead of dismissing him from the Administration outright. Name a White House Chief of Staff who later joined the Cabinet (in the same Administration).
- Email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or tweet (@WakeUp2Politics) me with your answer; correct respondents get their name in tomorrow's newsletter!
*All Times Eastern
For more on Wake Up To Politics, listen to Gabe on NPR's "Talk of the Nation", St. Louis Public Radio, the Political Junkie podcast, and on StoryCorps; watch Gabe on MSNBC's "Up with Steve Kornacki"; and read about Gabe in Politico, the Washington Post, Independent Journal, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Salon, the Globe, and the St. Louis Jewish Light.