I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Friday, February 2, 2018. 277 days until Election Day 2018. 1,005 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Tell your friends to sign up to receive the newsletter in their inbox at wakeuptopolitics.com/subscribe!
Meet the Editor: For those of you that live in the St. Louis area... there's an opportunity this weekend to hear me speak. I will be presenting at the auditorium of the University City Public Library (6701 Delmar Blvd, University City, MO 63130) on this Sunday, February 4 at 2pm. I'll be talking about Wake Up To Politics and sharing other observations on politics and media, and then take questions from the audience. I hope you can make it -- it'll be the perfect Super Bowl pre-show!
Trump expected to greenlight release of GOP memo
President Donald Trump is widely expected to grant his approval today for the controversial memo on political bias at the FBI authored by House Republicans to be made public, over the objections of top law enforcement officials.
The House Intelligence Committee voted earlier this week to release the memo, which is said to allege that the FBI abused its authority in obtaining a warrant to surveil former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page as part of its investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 election. The four-page classified document was then couriered to the President's desk; Trump had five days to either allow or block the memo's release. That deadline is today, and the President is expected to transmit the memo back to the Intelligence panel with his approval to make it public.
The memo has caused controversy on Capitol Hill and in the law enforcement community, with Trump's own Justice Department and FBI going public with their objections to its release. In a letter to House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA), whose aides were the primary authors of the memo, last week, Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd wrote that releasing the memo without giving DOJ the opportunity to review it would be "extraordinarily reckless." On Wednesday, the FBI released a rare statement expressing "grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo's accuracy."
Yet, according to the Washington Post, Trump has been advocating for the memo's release for weeks, since being informed of it by House conservatives and cable news. The President read the memo in its entirety on Wednesday, but signaled after his State of the Union address on Tuesday night that he would "100 percent" allow it to be made public in comments to a Republican lawmaker caught on a hot mic.
Intelligence and law enforcement officials have spoken with White House chief of staff John Kelly all week to urge against releasing the memo, The Post reports. FBI director Christopher Wray and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein met with Kelly on Monday afternoon; Wray spoke on the phone with Kelly again on Monday night; and on Tuesday, five FBI officials outlined their concerns. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, the head of the U.S. intelligence community, also met with Kelly this week to "express his reservations," per The Post.
All of these officials, many of whom were appointed by Trump, reportedly had the same message: releasing the memo would expose classified information and give a false message about the FBI's investigation. But, according to another Washington Post report, President Trump has "told advisers that he thinks the memo is “gaining traction” and could help him convince the public that the Mueller probe is a witch hunt," referring to the DOJ's Russia investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller. The Post added that Trump "has expressed a desire to get rid of Rosenstein, which would allow him to appoint a new official to oversee Mueller."
Rosenstein is reportedly named in the memo as the official who authorized the FBI to seek a surveillance warrant against Page, based on what Republicans claim was mainly information from the controversial dossier by former British spy Christopher Steele, who paid for in part by Democratic operatives and the Hillary Clinton campaign. However, according to the Wall Street Journal, Page "was known to U.S. counterintelligence officials for years" before the Steele dossier.
Trump took to Twitter this morning to vent his frustrations with his appointees to lead the law enforcement community, accusing them of political bias. "The top Leadership and Investigators of the FBI and the Justice Department have politicized the sacred investigative process in favor of Democrats and against Republicans - something which would have been unthinkable just a short time ago," the President tweeted.
Wray and the others have pushed for Trump to at least release the memo with redactions to protect classified information. According to The Post, the White House signaled that the Administration planned to release the memo with some redactions onThursday, but then changed course hours later, "saying the memo was likely to be released without redactions" today.
Trump his ignored the pleas of the FBI in favor of counsel from a different adviser: according to the Daily Beast, the President and Fox News anchor Sean Hannity have "been in regular contact...over the phone in recent weeks." Hannity has encouraged Trump to release the memo, the report said, both in their telephone conversations and on the air.
According to CNN, top White House aides "are worried" that Wray could resign if the memo is released, although the New York Times has reported that the FBI chief is "unlikely" to take that step. According to Axios, the greater White House fear is that the memo will turn out to be "underwhelming and not the 'slam dunk' document it's been hyped up to be."
The memo fight has also caused a split among lawmakers on Capitol Hill, where the document's release was vociferously opposed by Intelligence Committee Democrats. The panel's ranking member, Adam Schiff (D-CA), drafted his own memo to rebut the claims made in the GOP document, but the committee majority voted against releasing it. On Wednesday night, Schiff accused Nunes of sending the White House "an altered version" of the memo that the committee voted to approved, a violation of committee rules. Since then, both Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) have called for House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) to remove Nunes as chairman of the Intelligence Committee.
Ryan, who has endorsed releasing both memos, responded on Thursday that the Democrats are trying to "sidetrack us with some political game." Democrats say that the memo provides a distorted and one-sided description of the facts behind the FISA warrant to surveil Page. Republicans have said that the document raises real concerns about the FBI's actions and its potential biases, arguing that releasing the memo would be the more transparent move.
Some congressional Republicans have also voiced concerns about the memorandum, however: Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) released a joint statement with Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) on Thursday urging Trump to "reverse his reported decision to defy longstanding policies regarding the disclosure of classified information." Senate Republican Conferencechairman John Thune (R-SD) also called for patience on Thursday, saying that the memo should be reviewed by the Senate Intelligence Committee before the public can read it.
Despite loud opposition, the memorandum is likely to be made public today, the next step in a campaign staged by President Trump and his Republican allies against the FBI - and possibly, against special counsel Robert Mueller himself.
Trump calls for immigration compromise, while attacking Democrats on Twitter
In his State of the Union address on Tuesday, President Trump urged both parties to come together to support an immigration compromise that protected "Dreamers" while also funding border security and limiting legal immigration. He made that case to Republicans directly on Thursday, telling GOP lawmakers at their annual retreat: "We have to be willing to give a little in order for our country to gain a whole lot."
But his bipartisan rhetoric flies in the face of his narrative on Twitter, where he has attacked Democrats on immigration twice in the last 24 hours. Democratic lawmakers "Resist, Blame, Complain and Obstruct - and do nothing," Trump tweeted on Thursday morning; later in the night, he said that Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer "have to get moving fast, or they'll disappoint you again."
"We have a great chance to make a deal or, blame the Dems! March 5th is coming up fast," he said, referring to the expiration date of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which protects "Dreamers," that he set.
Meanwhile, immigration negotiations on Capitol Hill seem to have reached a stalemate. "I wouldn't say we're making progress," House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) told reporters of the "No. 2s" group, the second-ranking officials in each caucus, who have been tapped to strike a compromise on the issue. A bipartisan group of about 20 senators, who have dubbed themselves the "Common Sense Caucus," have also failed to reach consensus in their talks, which began during the government shutdown.
Immigration is again expected to become a key issue next week as Congress stares down another funding deadline: the three-week CR passed after the shutdown expires on Thursday. According to Politico, the House could vote as early as Tuesday on a stopgap bill to fund the government through March 22; however, conservatives and defense hawks in the GOP caucus have threatened to vote "no," while Democrats are refusing to back any measure that doesn't come along with "Dreamer" legislation.
A continuing resolution extending through March would be the fifth short-term spending bill passed by Congress since September.
Debt ceiling: It's not just funding the government that Congress has to worry about: according to the Congressional Budget Office, the U.S. government will default on its debt unless Congress raises the debt ceiling by the first half of March, an earlier deadline than expected. (Washington Post)
Job numbers: The Labor Department released its hiring unemployment figures this morning. Hiring increased for the 88th straight month, a record streak, while unemployment held steady at 4.1 percent. (New York Times)
2020 Central: President Trump's re-election campaign raised $43 million in 2017, four times as much as Barack Obama raised in his first two years in office. (Wall Street Journal)
#UTSEN: 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is previewing a February 15th announcement about the Utah Senate race, in which he is widely expected to announce his candidacy to succeed retiring Sen. Orrin Hatch. (Twitter)
#MSSEN: Republicans are preparing for the possibility of Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS), who has been ill for months, resigning from office. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is urging Gov. Phil Byrant (R-MS) to appoint himself to the seat, a plan backed by President Trump. (Washington Post)
Super Bowl interview: President Trump will not be granting an interview to NBC this weekend while the network airs the Super Bowl, ending a presidential tradition since 2004. (CNN)
And, finally... it's Groundhog Day! Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, so get ready for six more weeks of winter. (USA TODAY)
The President's Schedule
At 11am, the President receives his daily intelligence briefing.
At 11:30am, the President meets with North Korean defectors.
At 2:40pm, the President takes a tour of the Customs and Border Protection National Targeting Center in Sterling, Virginia. At 3:05pm, the President participates in a Customs and Border Protection roundtable.
At 4:10pm, the President and First Lady depart Washington D.C. for Palm Beach, Florida, where they will arrive at 7pm. The couple will spend the weekend at Mar-a-Lago, their "Winter White House."
Today in Congress
Both houses of Congress meet today for pro forma sessions, with no business expected to be conducted. Government funding is set to run out in less than a week.