6 min read

Wake Up To Politics - January 11, 2018

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Wednesday, January 10. 300 days until Election Day 2018. 1,028 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!

Issa retires, joining wave of GOP incumbents

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) on Wednesday announced plans to retire at the end of his term. Issa's announcement brings the number of House Republicans not seeking re-election to 31, more than any party has had in any election cycle in the last two decades.

“Throughout my service, I worked hard and never lost sight of the people our government is supposed to serve," Issa said in a statement. "Yet with the support of my family, I have decided that I will not seek re-election in California’s 49th District."

The California congressman rose to prominence during the Obama Administration, when he chaired the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, using the platform to investigate the Obama Administration on a range of issues: from the IRS scandal to "Fast and Furious" to the Benghazi attacks. He was first elected to the House in 2000, after a successful business career; until Greg Gianforte's election in Montana last year, Issa was the wealthiest member of the U.S. Congress.

He would have been one of the top Democratic targets in November: in 2016, he won his district by just over 1,600 votes, or 0.6% of the votes cast. Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, won the district by 7.5%. The district is one of 23 currently represented by a GOP congressman that Clinton won in the 2016 presidential election, seven of which are located in California. Issa is the second of those seven to retire in the last week: House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) called it quits on Monday. Democrats need to gain 24 seats in November to retake the House majority.

The record number of Republican retirements is an encouraging sign to Democrats as they head into the 2018 election, buoyed by President Donald Trump's low approval ratings and few legislative successes.

"Facing a likely tidal wave that will flip control of Congress coupled with a mentally unstable and unpredictable President, there really is nothing to look forward to if you’re Darrell Issa," Kurt Bardella, Issa's former press secretary and senior adviser, who recently switched parties to become a Democrat, told Wake Up To Politics. "At this point, there isn’t another Chairmanship he could get or leadership position. He is a person of enormous financial means and could be just as if not more impactful and visible in private life than he is in Congress.”

Renacci announces Senate bid

Rep. Jim Renacci (R-OH) is expected to announce a U.S. Senate campaign this morning, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer, after meeting with the White House political operation on Wednesday. Renacci will jump into the GOP primary to face Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) in November, one of the most vulnerable Democrats in the nation. The congressman had previously been running for Ohio's governorship.

Republicans lost their top recruit to run against Brown last week when Ohio State Treasurer Josh Mandel (R-OH) dropped out of the race due to his wife's health. "Hillbilly Elegy" author J.D. Vance is "seriously considering" a run, he according to CNN, and has discussed the prospect with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

Quote of the Day: "No collusion"

"We'll see what happens. I mean certainly we'll see what happens -- when they have no collusion and nobody's found any collusion at any level it seems unlikely that you'd even have an interview." — President Donald Trump at a joint press conference on Monday, responding to a question on whether he would sit down with special counsel Robert Mueller. According to CNN's Chris Cillizza, Trump used the phrase "no collusion" seven times in the answer. Trump also invoked Hillary Clinton and the investigation of her emails during the 2016 presidential campaign. Despite the President's response, news reports from numerous outlets indicate that Mueller is likely to request an interview with Trump.

--- RELATED: "Mueller adds veteran cyber prosecutor to special-counsel team" via Washington Post

Missouri governor admits affair, denies blackmail allegation

Missouri governor Eric Greitens admitted Wednesday that he had an extramarital affair in March 2015, before entering politics, following an explosive report from KMOV. The report alleges that Greitens had a sexual encounter with his hairdresser and that he took a photograph of the woman while she was bound, blindfolded, and partly undressed as blackmail. The claims were made by the woman's ex-husband, who provided an audio recording in which she explains the incident to him. In the recording, the woman recounts Greitens threatening her after taking the photograph, saying: "You're never going to mention my name otherwise there will be pictures of me everywhere."

In a set of statements provided to Wake Up To Politics and other news outlets, Greitens and his wife called the affair "a deeply personal mistake" that they had dealt with "honestly and privately," and she has forgiven him for. Their attorney, James F. Bennett, said that the report "contained multiple false allegations," including the blackmail claim. "This personal matter has been addressed by the Governor and Mrs. Greitens privately years ago when it happened," Bennett said. "The outrageous claims of improper conduct regarding these almost three-year-ago events are false."

Greitens has been long believed to harbor national ambitions, spending his first year as governor visiting the first-in-the-nation caucus state of Iowa and campaigning for fellow Republicans across the country. The report came on the same night of his "State of the State" address.

While most Missouri Republicans have stayed silent on the issue, Democrats in the state have begun calls for Greiten's resignation. In a statement to Wake Up To Politics, state Rep. Stacey Newman (D-MO) tied the allegations to the nationwide trend of women coming forward with accusations of sexual harassment.

"It is highly disturbing to learn our current governor alleged threats during a recent affair of which he has admitted," Newman said. "In this historic time of women coming forward with stories of harassment and abuse, it is unconscionable that someone in the highest office of Missouri may have blackmailed a woman in this manner." Newman joined other state legislators in calling for "a full investigation" of the matter.

--- RELATED: "States rethink sexual misconduct policies after complaints" via the Associated Press

Medicaid work requirement

Via ABC News:

"In a major policy shift that could affect millions of low-income people, the Trump administration said Thursday it is offering a path for states that want to seek work requirements on Medicaid recipients."

"Seema Verma, head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said work and community involvement can make a positive difference in people's lives and in their health. Still, the plan probably will face strong political opposition and even legal challenges over concerns people would lose coverage."

..."People are not legally required to hold a job to be on Medicaid, but states traditionally can seek federal waivers to test new ideas for the program."

"The administration's latest action spells out safeguards that states should consider to obtain federal approval for waivers imposing work requirements on 'able-bodied' adults. Technically, those waivers would be 'demonstration projects.' In practical terms, they would represent new requirements for beneficiaries in those states."

The President's Schedule

At 1:30pm, President Trump will lead a prison reform roundtable. According to Axios, the event (which will be attended by Attorney General Jeff Sessions) is the result of six months of work on the issue by White House senior advisor Jared Kushner and his Office of American Innovation. "The White House sees this as a conservative issue (save money, cut crime) that could get bipartisan support (spending for workforce development), heading into a midterm election year when it'll be even harder to get congressional accomplishments than it was last year," the report said.

At 2:45pm, Trump meets with his national security team.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders is set to hold her daily press briefing at 2:15pm.

Today in Congress

The Senate is scheduled to vote today on confirmation of two Trump district court nominees: Michael Lawrence Brown in the Northern District of Georgia, and Walter David Counts III in the Western District of Texas.

The House will vote today on a six-year reauthorization of the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA)'s Section 702, which allows the U.S. intelligence community to target foreign communications. Section 702 is set to expire on January 19; while Republican congressional leaders are aiming to renew it, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) said Wednesday that he will filibuster the reauthorization bill if it reaches the Senate.

The lower chamber is also expected to consider a bipartisan amendment authored by Paul's fellow civil libertarian Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) today that makes significant reforms to Section 702, restricting the government's ability to monitor communications involving American citizens. In a Wednesday night statement, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said that the Trump Administration "urges the House to reject this amendment and preserve the useful role FISA's Section 702 authority plays in protecting American lives."

However, the White House's message was undermined this morning, when President Donald Trump sent a tweet critical of FISA, which hesaid "may have been used, with the help of the discredited and phony Dossier, to so badly surveil and abuse the Trump Campaign by the previous administration." There is no evidence that the Obama Administration obtained a FISA warrant to target the Trump campaign.