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Wake Up To Politics - February 22, 2018

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Thursday, February 22, 2018. 257 days until Election Day 2018. 985 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at gabe@wakeuptopolitics.com. Tell your friends to sign up to receive the newsletter in their inbox at wakeuptopolitics.com/subscribe!

Need to Know

One day, two conversations on gun control

The gun debate continued on Wednesday, as the nation tuned in for two televised conversations on the issue.

In the afternoon, President DonaldTrump hosted students, parents, and teachers for a listening session at the White House, hearing emotional stories and pleas for action from individuals connected to Columbine, Sandy Hook, Marjory Stoneman Douglas, and other schools that have experienced mass shootings.

"We're going to do something about this horrible situation that's going on," Trump promised the group, who took turns passing a microphone for about 70 minutes, sharing gun safety proposals. "And we're going to all figure it out together." The President said that he would continue looking into many of the recommendations brought up, including expanding background checks, raising the minimum age of purchase for assault weapons, and improving mental health institutions.

President Trump's main proposal: arming school staff members. "If you had a teacher who was adept with the firearm, they could end the attack very quickly," he said. At another point, Trump explained: "This would be obviously only for people who were very adept at handling a gun, and it would be, it's called concealed carry, where a teacher would have a concealed gun on them. They'd go for special training and they would be there and you would no longer have a gun-free zone... A gun-free zone to a maniac...is, 'let's go in and let's attack, because bullets aren't coming back at us." The President suggested that 20% of teachers at a school be armed to ensure future attacks could be prevented.

Trump expanded on the idea in a series of four tweets this morning. "20% of teachers, a lot, would now be able to immediately fire back if a savage sicko came to a school with bad intentions," he wrote. "Highly trained teachers would also serve as a deterrent to the cowards that do this. Fat more assets at much less cost than guards. A 'gun free' school is a magnet for bad people. ATTACKS WOULD END!" In another tweet, he added: "Highly trained, gun adept, teachers/coaches wouls solve the problem instantly, before police arrive. GREAT DETERRENT!"

"So does anybody like that idea here?" Trump asked the participants in the room. "And do people feel strongly against it?" Seeing hands raised for both positions, he said: "Look, we can understand both sides. And certainly, it's controversial. But we'll study that along with many other ideas."

In a fifth tweet this morning, President Trump appealed to Congress on a series of gun control actions. "I will be strongly pushing Comprehensive Background Checks with an emphasis on Mental Health," he said. "Raise age to 21  and end sale of Bump Stocks! Congress is in a mood to finally do something on this issue - I hope!"

Watch: "I'm pissed," Andrew Pollack, the father of a victim of the Parkland shooting, told the President. "We, as a country, failed our children...Fix it." (Video)

Trending: President Trump's notes, with five bullet points, that he held in his hands during the listening session. The last reminder: "I hear you." (Photo)

Later Wednesday night, CNN hosted a town hall for students, parents, and teachers from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School to confront lawmakers and a gun rights advocate. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), as well as Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL), and NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch fielded questions from students, often receiving boos and jeers from the angry audience.

Facing pressure from the questioners, Rubio sought to moderate his stances on gun control, although many students were still left unsatisfied. The Florida Republican endorsed raising the age to buy assault weapons: "I absolutely believe that in this country if you are 18 years of age, you should not be able to buy a rifle, and I will support a law that takes that right away," he said. Rubio said that he believes a bill raising the legal age to buy a rifle to 21 years old could pass the Senate; Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) also backed that proposal Wednesday, and President Trump seemed open to it.

Rubio also said that he's "willing to reconsider" his position on banning high-capacity magazines, and broke with Trump on the President's proposal to arm teachers. "I don't support that," Rubio said. Finally, the lawmaker promised that he and Nelson would attempt on Monday to gain unanimous consent for advancing a background checks bill in the Senate.  

Watch: Stoneman Douglas student Cameron Kasky presses Rubio on refusing to accept donations from the NRA, which the Floridian did not budge on. (Video) ... Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter was killed at Stoneman Douglas, tells Rubio that his comments have been "pathetically weak," to cheers from the audience. (Video)

The Rundown

Russia probe

The latest: New sealed charges have been filed in special counsel Robert Mueller's case against former Trump campaign aides Paul Manafort and Rick Gates...

Mueller is investigating whether Manafort promised a Trump White House job to a Chicago banker in exchange for $16 million in home loans...

Former Trump campaign staffer Sam Nunberg is expected to be interviewed by Mueller's team today...

President Trump urged Attorney General Jeff Session(s) to investigate the Obama Administration for Russian meddling...

Bernie Sanders' response to charges that Russian actors backed his campaign mimics Trump's...

The White House

First Lady: Melania Trump's parents "have become legal permanent residents of the United States and are close to obtaining their citizenship," the Washington Post reported, making it likely that they relied on "chain migration" to enter the United States. The couple's attorney declined to confirm the report, raising the possibility that the First Lady's family came to the U.S. through a program that the President has called to eliminate.

McMaster: National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster may soon be eased out of his high-profile role: CNN reports that the Pentagon is looking for a four-star posting he may be able to move into. The network confirmed Politico's reporting earlier this week on months-long tension between President Trump and McMaster, which broke into the public eye last weekend after on Twitter.

Trump Administration

DOJ: Wednesday was Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand's last day on the job; she is taking a post as an executive at Walmart. Brand shot down reports that her exit was related to concerns that she would be tapped to oversee the Russia investigation, telling Fox News that "anyone who actually knows me knows that had nothing to do with my departure." She added: "I never had any reason to think that the Mueller probe would come to me."

FCC: The Federal Communications Commission is set to formally publish its overturning of Obama-era net neutrality rules today, meaning legal and congressional actions seeking to block the order can now begin, Reuters reported.

HUD: The inspector general of the Department of Housing and Urban Development is probing the role Secretary Ben Carson's family has played at the agency, CNN reported. The Washington Post reported last month on "the extent to which Carson has relied on close family members since joining the Cabinet," including his wife, son, and daughter-in-law.

State Department: Officials at the State Department "have been ordered to pare back passages in a soon-to-be-released annual report on global human rights that traditionally discuss women’s reproductive rights and discrimination," Politico reported.

HHS: Robert Weaver, President Trump's nominee to lead the Indian Health Service, has withdrawn from consideration for the job, after allegations that he exaggerated his work experience at a previous employer, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Capitol Hill

Immigration: Congress' next immigration fight is "right around the corner," with the issue of protecting "Dreamers" expected to return ahead of the next government funding deadline on March 23, Politico reports.

Congressional oversight: House Oversight Committee chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC) wrote a letter questioning Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt on his first-class travel, the Washington Examiner reported.

Russian interference: Democratic congressional leaders requested $300 million be added to the proposed budget "to respond to the inevitable Russian efforts to influence the upcoming 2018 elections" in a letter to their Republican counterparts.

Scandal: Recommended read... "The Frat House of Representatives," on the year of scandal in Congress (Politico)

2018 midterms

A changing party: Mitt Romney, Bob Corker, and other onetime Trump critics now find their Senate bids dependant on his support, the New York Times reports.

Fundraising: The Republican National Committee (RNC) dominated its Democratic counterpart in fundraising last month, raising $12.4 million to the DNC's $6.1 million. The RNC also reported having more than five times the amount of cash on hand that the DNC has and having $0 in debt to the DNC's $5.6 million... One interesting nugget from the RNC's filing: A firm owned by President Trump's former personal bodyguard, Keith Schiller, receives $15,000 a month from the committee for "security services," CNBC found.

One last thing: "Jeopardy" host Alex Trebek will moderate a Pennsylvania gubernatorial debate this year, per the Philadelphia Inquirer.


The President's Schedule

At 11am, President Trump receives his daily intelligence briefing.

At 11:30am, Trump meets with state and local officials on school safety, following his listening session on Tuesday with students, parents, and teachers.

Also today: at 2pm, White House principal deputy press secretary Raj Shah will hold the daily press briefing, standing in for press secretary Sarah Sanders, who is a member of the presidential delegation attending the Closing Ceremony of the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in South Korea. The delegation, which is being led by Ivanka Trump and also includes Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID), departs this morning on a commercial flight.

Vice President's Schedule

At 10:30am, Vice President Mike Pence addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), the largest annual gathering of conservatives in the United States. This year's event is scheduled to include remarks from 12 Trump Administration officials, including White House counsel Don McGahn, presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, budget director Mick Mulvaney, among others. Other speakers a the confab includes figures from the global populist movement, including Marion Le Pen from France and Nigel Farage from Great Britain. President Trump himself will address CPAC tomorrow.

At11:30am, the Vice President joins the President for his meeting with state and local officials.

Today in Congress

Both houses of Congress are on recess.