Wake Up To Politics - January 17, 2018
I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Wednesday, January 17, 2018. 294 days until Election Day 2018. 1,022 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!
In today's newsletter: Shutdown negotiations continue, Steve Bannon receives two Russia probe subpoenas, Trump's doctor gives him a clean bill of health, the fight over "fake news," Bob Dole to receive the Congressional Gold Medal, the Senate advances surveillance bill + more...
Shutdown watch: Latest developments
Here's the latest in the negotiations over spending and immigration, ahead of Friday's deadline...
House Republicans posted the text of a continuing resolution (CR) Tuesday night to extend government funding through February 16; if passed before Friday night, the legislation would keep the government running and avert a shutdown. The stop-gap measure includes provisions aimed at picking up support among both parties, extending the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for six years (a bipartisan priority) and delaying three Obamacare taxes (a GOP sweetener): the medical device tax and the "Cadillac tax" (each by two years) and the Health Insurance Tax (by one year).
According to Politico, the House GOP "appeared to coalesce" around the CR plan on Tuesday night after being presented by House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) to a House GOP conference meeting, with "numerous rank-and-file members" offering their endorsements of the bill. However, House Freedom Caucus chairman Mark Meadows (R-NC) told reporters after exiting a meeting of his 31-member right-wing caucus later in the night that the stop-gap measure's passage is not guaranteed. The Freedom Caucus has not yet taken an official position, but has been critical of continuing to pass short-term CRs. Meadows told reporters that the "general consensus tonight was that there's not support for the current leadership plan as proposed."
He added, "Based on the number of 'no' and undecided votes,thereis not enough votes for a Republican-only bill." The Freedom Caucus isn't the only House GOP faction with concerns: a number of "defense hawks" are insisting that the funding plan include a boost to defense spending and pointing out the risks temporary funding can pose to the military. If enough of the "undecideds" break to "no," House GOP leaders could require Democratic votes to pass the continuing resolution in the House. Republicans will already need at least nine Democratic votes in the Senate to block a filibuster of the legislation. Expressing optimism that enough of the "undecided" lawmakers would eventually vote to approve the CR and that enough red-state Democrats in the Senate would also fall in line, senior appropriator Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) told Politico: "We don't need any Democrats in the House. And I don’t think the Democrats in the Senate have the nerve to shut down the government.”
But the more Republican "no" votes, the more leverage Democrats have leading up to the vote. Many Democrats are refusing to vote for a spending bill unlessthereis a plan to make permanent the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) protections for the nearly 800,000 "Dreamers" brought to the U.S. illegally as minors. However, with each passing day, the chances of a DACA deal emerging become ever slimmer.
The "Gang of Six" — Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham (SC), Jeff Flake (AZ), and Cory Gardner (CO), and Democratic Sens. Dick Durbin (IL), Bob Menendez (NJ), and Michael Bennet (CO) — are expected to release the details of their bipartisan immigration deal today. According to a summary posted by Politico's Seung Min Kim, the plan includes a 12-year pathway to citizenship for "Dreamers" (with up to two years of credit for those who were DACA recipients), $1.6 billion in "border planning" (including border wall funding) and $1.1 billion in additional border security funding, as well as elimination of the Diversity Visa Lottery and restrictions on "chain migration."
The plan, which was reportedly praised by President Trump before he rejected it in a now-infamous Oval Office meeting in which he allegedly referred to immigrants from "shithole countries" in Africa, is unlikely to receive a vote without White House support. "The 'Gang of Six deal to fix DACA will not get a vote in the house or the Senate because POTUS will not sign it," Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX), his caucus' top immigration negotiator, tweeted this morning. "Let's go back to the drawing board and get this done: Border Security, end Diversity Visa Lottery, limit chain migration, and fix DACA."
With DACA remaining on the books until March 5 (the expiration date President Trump set when rescinding it), GOP lawmakers are trying to make the point that Democrats should not force a government shutdown over an issue that does not yet need to be decided. "With no imminent deadline on immigration, and with bipartisan talks well underway, there is no reason why Congress should hold government funding hostage over the issue of illegal immigration," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said Tuesday, adding that "Congress has at least until March at a minimum and possibly even longer to reach a compromise that resolves the DACA question." Many Democrats, meanwhile, maintain that they are on firm ground in standing up for the popular DACAprotections, and that they will not be blamed for a shutdown as the minority party. But with the question of who will receive the blame for a potential shutdown impossible to answer, Democrats who face re-election in deep-red states next year may break with their party and support a CR without an immigration deal.
Also complicating matters: the involvement of the federal courts, which could give Congress "even longer," as McConnell hinted at. The government has resumed renewing DACA renewal applications after San Francisco-based U.S. District Judge William Alsup issued a temporary injunction last week halting Trump's plan to black DACA; the Justice Department announced Tuesday that it was appealing Alsup's ruling to both the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and straight to the U.S. Supreme Court, acknowledging that it was a "rare step."
Meanwhile, the House Rules Committee meets at3pm today to consider the continuing resolution; a House vote on the measure is expected to be held on Thursday. The House Freedom Caucus may also present their own spending plan today, which may take the form of a "defense CRomnibus," part stopgap CR and part omnibus spending bill. Such a proposal would fund the defense portions of the budget for the full fiscalyear, while extending non-defense funding for only a month. GOP defense hawks would also be likely to support that plan.
Trending quote... Sen. Cory Booker went after Homeland Security Secretary Kristen Nielsen in a hearing on Tuesday, pressing her on whether Trump called African nations "shithole countries" in an Oval office meeting she attended. "The commander in chief in an Oval Office meeting referring to people from African countries and Haitians with the most vile and vulgar language, that language festers. When ignorance and bigotry is allied with power it is a dangerous force in our country. Your silence and your amnesia is complicity," Booker said. Nielsen maintained that she "did not hear that word used," referring to the profane allegations.
Reports: Bannon subpoenaed by House Intelligence panel, Mueller grand jury
Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, a top official in the Trump campaign and key member of the President's inner circle during the Trump Administration's first eight months, has reportedly faces two subpoenas in the Russia investigations, from the House Intelligence Committee and a grand jury called by special counsel Robert Mueller.
The New York Times reported Tuesday that Bannon was subpoenaed by Mueller last week to testify before a grand jury on potential links between the Trump campaign and Russia, "the first time Mr. Mueller is known to have used a grand jury subpoena to seek information from a member of Mr. Trump's inner circle."
That bombshell report dropped as Bannon was being interviewed on similar questions about Russian ties by the House Intelligence Committee, a meeting that went on for ten and a half hours on Tuesday. Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) and Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX), who is leading the panel's Russia probe, confirmed that Bannon was subpoenaed by the committee as he refused to answer questions. Ranking member Adam Schiff (D-CA) told reporters after the meeting that Bannon had been issued a "gag order" from the White House, preventing him from even speaking about interactions with Trump before taking and after leaving his post as Chief Strategist, although he did not formally invoke "executive privilege" (which would likely not apply to the presidential transition anyways). Schiff said that after the subpoena, Bannon's lawyer contacted the White House, which "doubled down" on telling Bannon not to answer questions.
Conaway confirmed to reporters that Bannon refused to answer questions even under subpoena; declining to say whether the panel would hold the ex-White House aide in contempt of Congress, he did say that they subpoena remained under effect and that the panel would return to questioning the strategist "soon." Conaway promised: "We're going to get answers from Mr. Bannon."
According to an NBC News report this morning, Mueller's subpoena arrived last week in the form of FBI agents showing up at Bannon's Washington home. "Mueller moved to subpoena Bannon, rather than ask him to voluntarily appear for questioning, in order to thwart any potential attempt by the White House to pressure Bannon into refusing to cooperate," according to the report, but Bannon may still be offered an interview "in lieu of grand jury testimony." That interview could take place before the end of the month. Unlike before the House Intelligence Committee, Bannon will "answer any questions" Mueller asks, a source close to Bannon told NBC News.
The two subpoenas facing Bannon come after he experienced a very public rift with the Trump White House he continues to defend. After a book was published in which Bannon spoke critically of the President and his family — suggesting that Trump may have met with Russian officials who sat down with Donald Trump Jr. during the campaign, and that Mueller's probe could end in money laundering charges against Trump Jr., Trump son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort — Trump said that Bannon "lost his mind," causing Bannon to lose his post as executive chairman of Breitbart News.
The House Intelligence Committee is expected to call a number of other key Trump advisers for interviews today and later this week, including former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, deputy White House chief of staff Rick Dearborn, and White House communications director Hope Hicks, according to CNN.
The Fake News Awards(?)
Will President Trump be presenting the "Fake News Awards" today? Trump first referenced the "honors" in November, announcing on Twitter that a "FAKE NEWS TROPHY" would be awarded to the network "not including Fox" with "the most dishonest, corrupt and/or distorted in its political coverage of your favorite President (me)." The next month, the President's re-election campaign sent an email to its mailing list linking to a poll asking supporters to "help us crown the 2017 KING of Fake News Trophy winner."
In early January, Trump announced that "THE MOST DISHONEST & CORRUPT MEDIA AWARDS OF THE YEAR" would be awarded on January 8, but on January 7, he tweeted that the "Fake News Awards" would actually be "presented to the losers" on January 17, which is today. The President cited "the interest in, and importance of, these awards" being "far greater than anyone could have anticipated."
But the White House has yet to offer any additional details on the "awards," and White House press secretary Sarah Sanders called it a "potential event" at Tuesday's briefing.
Meanwhile... Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) is expected to deliver a floor speech today blasting President Trump's "unrelenting daily assault on the constitutionally-protected free press," according to excerpts obtained by the Washington Post. Flake will call Trump's rhetoric on the media "as unprecedented as it is unwarranted," comparing Trump's labeling the press as "enemy of the people" to Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin's use of a similar phrase. "When a figure in power reflexively calls any press that doesn't suit him 'fake news,' it is that person who should be the figure of suspicion, not the press," Flake plans to say. The freshman senator announced plans to retire last October in a speech highly critical of the President.
Flake's Arizona colleague, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), is seizing on the same topic in light of Trump's possible presentation of the "Fake News Awards." McCain is publishing a Washington Post op-ed this morning titled, "Mr. President stop attacking the press," in which he referenced the use of the term "fake news" by autocrats around the world after Trump "granted legitimacy" to the label. "Only truth and transparency can guarantee freedom," McCain wrote, defending the press' role and criticizing the President's "attempts to undermine the free press," which he said "make it more difficult to hold repressive governments accountable."
What Americans think... Gallup and the Knight Foundation released a study on the news media on Tuesday, showing widespread distrust of the news media and disagreement on what exactly "fake news" means. 43% of respondents had a very or somewhat unfavorable view of the press, including 68% of Republicans and 18% of Democrats. Asked if certain situations fell under the definition of "fake news," 42% of Democrats and 26% of Republicans said "Accurate news stories casting a politician or political group in a negative light" are always "fake news." More results via Politico...
White House doctor announces Trump physical results
"The President's overall health is excellent," Dr. Ronny Jackson, the Physician to the President, declared at the White House press briefing on Tuesday. Jackson spoke for nearly an hour, answering numerous questions from White House reporters. A roundup of the key details from Trump's physical, which Jackson released, via Axios:
- "Trump requested a cognitive exam during the session. Trump scored 30/30 on a test of his cognitive ability — 'The Montreal Cognitive Assessment' which screened for Alzheimer's and dementia, among other illnesses. 'I have no concerns about his cognitive ability,' Jackson said."
- "Trump is 6'3" and weighs 239 pounds. Jackson added that he discussed a diet plan with the president that would include a smaller amount of carbohydrates and fats. A reasonable goal is for Trump to lose 10–15 pounds in the next year, he said. 'The president has acknowledged that he'd be healthier if he lost a few pounds.' "
- "The president's blood pressure is 122/74, a normal level, and he has a resting heart rate of 68 beats per minute."
- "Trump's medications: Crestor, Aspirin, Propecia — to prevent male pattern hair loss — and a multivitamin."
- " 'His cardiac health is excellent...That's not me speaking. That's objective data.' "
- "Trump's physical exam lasted over 4 hours and involved 12 medical consultants."
- "The president told Press Secretary Sarah Sanders to let Jackson answer all questions about Trump's health and not to usher him off the stage."
- "The First Lady will work with Trump's doctor to develop an aerobic exercise routine for the president. 'Being on the golf course, there is a certain amount of exercise involved in that,' Jackson added."
2018 Central: In and Out
In... Former Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) is set to announce his Ohio gubernatorial bid today. Kucinich became known for his liberal stances as a U.S. Congressman from 1997 to 2013; he also ran in the 2004 and 2008 Democratic presidential primaries. He joins former Consumer Financial Protection Bureau director Richard Cordray, state Supreme Court justice Bill O'Neil, state Sen. Joe Schiavoni, former state Rep. Connie Pillich, and others in a crowded Democratic primary for the state's open governorship.
Out... Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-MN) will not run in the special election to fill Al Franken's Senate seat later this year, he announced on Tuesday. Pawlenty was seen as a top GOP recruit to face Sen. Tina Smith (D-MN). who served as the state's lieutenant governor until being appointed to fill the seat on an interim basis, in the special election; state Sen. Karin Housley is now the leading Republican candidate.
The President's Schedule: Kazakhstan
At 11am, President Donald Trump receives his daily intelligence briefing.
At 2:35pm, the President departs the White House en route to the U.S. Capitol.
At 3pm, Trump attends a Congressional Gold Medal ceremony honoring former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole at the Capitol. The medal, awarded to recipients "who have performed an achievement that has an impact on American history and culture that is likely to be recognized as a major achievement in the recipient's field long after the achievement," is one of the two highest civilian awards in the United States, along with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Dole, who served in the U.S. Army during World War II, went represented Kansas in the U.S. House from 1961 to 1969, and in the U.S. Senate from 1969 to 1996. He was also the 1996 Republican presidential nominee and the 1976 Republican vice presidential nominee.
All four top congressional leaders will take part in the bipartisan, bicameral ceremony, which will be attended by numerous current and former lawmakers.
At 4pm, Trump departs the Capitol en route to the White House.
Also today: White House press secretary Sarah Sanders will hold her daily press briefing at 1pm.
Inside Trump's "Executive Time"... In a new report, CNN adds details to Axios' report earlier this month on President Trump's "Executive Time," the daily period on his private schedule from 8am to 11am that is mostly "in his residence, watching TV, making phone calls and tweeting," according to Axios. Per CNN, Trump spends most mornings in the Yellow Oval Room of the residence, "with his Twitter-enabled cellphone in one hand and the White House landline in the other, "surrounded by the front pages of The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and the Washington Times," as " 'Fox and Friends' plays in the background for the next three years." According to the report, Trump arrives in the Office just before noon, which his predictors generally did by 9am.
Today in the Senate
The Senate will convene today at 10am. The chamber will hold debate over the six-year reauthorization of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which allows U.S. intelligence agencies to monitor foreign communications. The advanced the House-passed bill in a 60-38 vote on Tuesday, with 18 Democrats and Independent Sen. Angus King (ME) joining 41 Republicans in support of the measure. Eight Republicans voted in opposition. The bill received exactly as many votes (60) as it needed to advance. The measure has received loud opposition from civil liberty-minded members of both parties, who cite privacy concerns and have called for an amendment to prevent the government from monitoring communications that involve U.S. citizens.
Today in the House
The House will convene today at 10am. The chamber is set to consider the following pieces of legislation:
- H.R. 3445 – AGOA and MCA Modernization Act, as amended
- H.R. 3776 – Cyber Diplomacy Act of 2017, as amended
- H.R. 1660 – Global Health Innovation Act of 2017
- H.R. 3326 – World Bank Accountability Act of 2017
- H.R. 4258 – Family Self-Sufficiency Act, as amended
- H.R. 4279 – Expanding Investment Opportunities Act, as amended