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Wake Up To Politics - January 16, 2018

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Tuesday, January 16, 2018. 295 days until Election Day 2018. 1,023 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!

In remembrance of Adina Talve-Goodman. Love, Grover.

Dispute over Trump comments derail shutdown talks as deadline ticks closer

The government is set to shut down at the end of the day on Friday, unless a stopgap funding bill can pass Congress and be signed by President Donald Trump before then. With recent days dominated by debate over whether Trump labeled African nations "shithole countries" in a meeting with a bipartisan group of lawmakers, hopes are dimming for a deal on immigration that would permanently enshrine the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which protects immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as minors (known as "Dreamers"), into law.

Trump allegedly made the vulgar comments in a Thursday meeting with Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Tom Cotton (R-AR), and David Perdue (R-GA), as well as House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL). Durbin and Graham were on hand to present a bipartisan immigration agreement that they had struck earlier in the day along with Sens. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Michael Bennet (D-CO), and Bob Menendez (D-NJ). According to Politico, the deal would offer "Dreamers" a 12-year path to citizenship, with current DACA recipients receiving a 10-year path, while also including $2.7 billion in border security (including Trump's border all request) and $1.1 billion for "security infrastructure and technology."

According to a new Washington Post tick-tock of Thursday's events, Trump "expressed pleasure" with an outline of the deal when speaking on the phone with Durbin in the morning. Then, "fired up" by Cotton and other hardline conservatives, Trump informed the assembled lawmakers in the Oval Office that he "wasn't interested" in the agreement. The Post describes the meeting as "short, tense and often dominated by loud cross-talk and swearing," as the President reportedly made offensive comments about African countries and the nation of Haiti. Trump is also reported in the Post's account to have complained about the amount of border funding in the deal, while insisting on the need for more immigrants from places like Norway and Asia.

Attendees of the meeting are split on the question of whether Trump used the phrase "shithole countries" to describe African nations. While Durbin is insistent that he did, Cotton and Perdue have both denied that Trump used that phrase, despite previously releasing a joint statement saying that they did not recall. "I'm telling you he did not use that word...and I'm telling you it's a gross misrepresentation," Perdue said Sunday on ABC's "This Week." Graham has all but confirmed the comments, refusing to specifically weigh in but saying that he "said my piece directly" to Trump on Thursday. No attendee is disputing the sentiment behind Trump's alleged comments; according to the Post, Perdue and Cotton's denials hinge on the possibility that the word Trump actually used was "shithouse." As debate over immigration policy has turned into a dispute over Trump's words and larger attitudes on race and immigration, the President insisted on Sunday that he is "not a racist," telling reporters: "I am the least racist person you have ever interviewed."

Without White House support, the bipartisan "Gang of Six" pact appears all but dead, despite Trump's promise to sign any legislation that Congress would agree to in a rare, televised meeting with members of Congress last Tuesday. A GOP immigration bill unveiled last week, penned by House Judiciary Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), is similarly seen as dead-on-arrival, containing almost all of the Trump Administration's priorities (including money for the border wall and end to the chain migration system and visa lottery program) and little in the way of a path to citizenship for DACA recipients.

Negotiations are now being led by the second-ranking member of each legislative caucus: McCarthy, Dublin, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX), and House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD). According to Politico Playbook, the foursome are "likely to meet this afternoon" to try and hammer out an immigration deal, although there is little faith in their ability to do so by Friday. According to Roll Call, GOP leaders are expected to introduce a stopgap spending plan to avert a shutdown; the package would extend government funding through mid-February, while also reauthorizing the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

Members of both parties have publicly weighed opposing another short-term fix. Republican defense hawks have said that they may vote against any spending package that doesn't include defense increases, while House conservatives have threatened rebelling against any continuing resolution (CR). Opposition from such members may mean GOP leaders will need votes from the Democratic minorities to pass the spending legislation, but many Democrats are threatening to vote against any package that does not accompany a permanent DACA fix. However, many red-state Democrats facing re-election this year are wavering on that plan, fearing that they will be punished for shutting down the government over illegal immigration. Republicans are hoping that sweeteners such as the CHIP extension will attract Democratic support.

Thus, Trump's alleged comments have effectively resulted in a breakdown of the immigration talks, as Democrats believe they give the party cover in forcing a shutdown on the issue, while Republicans accuse the minority party of derailing negotiations with accusations that Trump is racist. As the two parties bicker over whether Trump wrote off an entire continent as a "shithole" or a "shithouse," little hope remains that they can come together to strike a deal: if the two side can even agree on what the President said at a meeting, observers ask, why should anyone believe that they can find consensus on one of the most contentious issues facing the nation?

Underlining concerns that the dispute would continue into the new week, President Trump went after "Senator Dicky Durbin" on Twitter on Monday, charging that the Illinois lawmaker "totally misrepresented what was said at the DACA meeting" and that he "blew DACA and is hurting our Military." Trump added: "Deals can't get made when there is no trust!"

Meanwhile... Following a federal court ruling last week, the U.S. government said Saturday that it would continue accepting DACA renewal requests "until further notice." More via CNN...

2018 Roundup: GOP fears

  • "Trump's nightmare": Axios reports that Hill sources say "a House Democratic takeover is now likely," while one GOP strategist says losing the chamber is "baked in."
  • "New alarm among Republicans that Democrats could win big this year": The Washington Post details concerns that the GOP could be facing a "bloodbath" in November, as the party faces difficulty recruiting candidates to run in place of a raft of retirees, while being led by a historically unpopular and unpredictable president.
  • "The next GOP panic: Gubernatorial races": And, per Politico, Republicans are also worried about maintaining their lock on the nation's State Houses, as Democrats target 17 GOP-held governorships.

Trump's Washington: The Players

Recent profiles of...

  • John Kelly: Politico profiles the White House chief of staff as he just tries to "end the day in neutral."
  • Ronna Romney McDaniel: "A Romney who is unfailingly loyal to Trump," as the New York Times labels the Republican National Committee (RNC) chairwoman while her uncle Mitt mulls an anti-Trump Senate bid.
  • Kevin McCarthy: The Washington Post reveals how the House Majority Leader curries favor with President Trump... by gifting him a jar of Starbursts with only Trump's favorite flavors: cherry and strawberry. (Editorial comment: These are the correct preferred flavors of Starbursts.)


  • "U.S. Warned Jared Kushner About Wendi Deng Murdoch": The Wall Street Journal reports that U.S. counterintelligence officials warned Jared Kushner, President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, early last year that Chinese-American businesswoman Wendi Deng Murdoch could be using their friendship to advance the Chinese government's interests.

The Russia Investigation

The House Intelligence Committee will continue interviewing top officials from President Trump's campaign and Administration today, as the panel moves forward with its probe of Russian intervention into the 2016 election. According to Fox News, former Trump campaign CEO turned White House chief strategist Steve Bannon is set to testify today, while ousted Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski is expected to appear before the committee later this week. CNN reports that White House communications director Hope Hicks, one of Trump's longest-lasting and closest aides, is also expected to meet with the committee as soon as Friday.

Bannon's appearance is especially interesting as it comes just days after his high-profile rift with the White House in light of the publication of "Fire and Fury," an inside account of the Trump Administration that he participated in. Trump said his ex-strategist had "lost his mind" after the book reported that Bannon made controversial comments on Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner's implications in the Russia probe.

The President's Schedule: Kazakhstan

President Donald Trump meets today with President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan. The two presidents will meet at 12:05pm, before delivering "joint press statements" at 12:15pm and participating in a working lunch at 12:30pm.

According to the White House, Trump and Nazarbayev "will discuss ways to strengthen and enhance our strategic partnership on regional security issues and economic cooperation," as well as "Kazakhstan’s leadership on several international challenges, particularly Afghanistan, during its presidency of the United Nations Security Council, and the legacy of bilateral partnership between our countries regarding weapons of mass destruction and non-proliferation issues."

Nazarbayev, 77, has led Kazakhstan since the nation's post-Soviet founding in 1990; his government has been criticized by the State Department for its human rights abuses and authoritarian rule.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders will hold her daily press briefing at 3:30pm. Trump is not scheduled to hold a joint press conference with the Kazakh president, as he did with the Prime Minister of Norway last week. Sanders may announce details of the President's health at today's briefing; after Trump underwent a physical last week, the White House doctor said he was in "excellent health."

Today in the Senate

The Senate convenes at 4:30pm today. The chamber will resume consideration of the House-passed legislation reauthorizing Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which allows U.S. intelligence agencies to monitor foreign communications. The Senate will hold a cloture vote advancing the bill at 5:30pm. If the bill passes the upper chamber today, it will head to the President's desk; despite contradictory tweets from Trump on the subject, the White House has voiced support for the bill. Trump must sign the legislation before Friday, January 19, when Section 702 is set to expire.

The measure passed the House on Thursday in a 256-164 vote, with 45 Republicans and 119 Democrats opposed. A bipartisan amendment to restrict the government's ability to target communications involving Americans citizens failed in the lower chamber.

Flashback (to last week)... "How a Trump tweet imperiled FISA surveillance legislation" via NBC News...

Today in the House

The House convenes at 12pm today. The chamber is set to vote on eight pieces of legislation:

  1. The Family Self-Sufficiency Act, "to promote the development of local strategies to coordinate use of [a HUD program helping families receiving housing assistance] with public and private resources, to enable eligible families to achieve economic independence and self-sufficiency."
  2. The American Innovation $1 Coin Act, which would authorize a series of coins "in recognition of American innovation and significant innovation and pioneering efforts of individuals or groups from each" U.S. state and territory.
  3. The Expanding Investment Opportunites Act, "to direct the Securities and Exchange Commission to revise any rules necessary to enable closed-end companies to use the securities offering and proxy rules that are available to other issuers of securities."
  4. The Miscellaneous Tariff Bill Act, "to modify temporarily certain rates of duty."
  5. The Alex Diekmann Peak Designation Act, which would designate a peak in the Lee Metcalf Wilderness in Montana for a leading conservationist in the state, Alex Diekmann, who died in 2016.
  6. The Pershing County Economic Development and Conservation Act, "to promote conservation, improve public land management, and provide for sensible development in Pershing County, Nevada."
  7. The Poarch Band of Creek Indians Land Reaffirmation Act, "to reaffirm that certain land has been taken into trust for the benefit of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians."
  8. A bill authorizing "the Mayor of the District of Columbia and the Director of the National Park Service to enter into cooperative management agreements for the operation, maintenance, and management of units of the National Park System in the District of Columbia."