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Wake Up To Politics - January 18, 2018

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Thursday, January 18, 2018. 293 days until Election Day 2018. 1,021 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 today's newsletter: With one day until the shutdown deadline, it remains unclear if the House will pass a continuing resolution today; Mueller to interview Bannon; Trump to Pennsylvania as special election nears + more...

Uncertain path forward for 28-day CR as House votes tonight

With one day to go before the government runs out of money, the House is scheduled to vote tonight on a continuing resolution extending government funding through February 16. Members of the House Freedom Caucus, which is made up of about 30 of the most conservative House Republicans, are still not promising their support for the CR, but House GOP leaders are reportedly confident that the stopgap measure will be approved. The Freedom Caucus is hoping to gain a concession from leadership in exchange for their support of the CR, which may be a floor vote on House Judiciary Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA)'s hardline immigration bill. Those negotiations will likely continue up until today's vote; Freedom Caucus chairman Mark Meadows (R-NC) said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" this mroning that they are making "good progress." However, as of this publication, House Republicans lack the votes needed for the CR's assured passage.

Republicans are not able to rely on Democratic assistance to pass the CR: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has told her members to oppose the spending bill, although some may break with her directions. The CR includes a six-year reauthorization of the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), a top priority for many Democrats; the bill also delays the enforcement of three Obamacare taxes as a sweetener for conservatives. House Republican defense hawks, many of whom sit on the Armed Services Committee, have also publicly protested the CR, calling for increases in defense spending. It is also unclear how many of them will end up voting against the measure in tonight's roll call.

"We do support the short-term CR," White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said at her briefing on Wednesday, an implicit endorsement from the President that carries weight with conservative members. According to Politico, "President Donald Trump is personally leaning on GOP lawmakers to fall into line," and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and his deputies are confident that enough conservatives will support the CR as a result.

Just before publication of this newsletter, President Trump sent a cryptic tweet that may undermine the White House's support of the CR. "CHIP should be part of a long term solution, not a 30 Day, or short term, extension!" he tweeted this morning. Trump's tweet appears to urge Congress to remove the CHIP reauthorization from the continuing resolution, although the President did not offer other details on his stance.

If the CR passes the House, it also faces an uphill battle for passage in the Senate, where it would need 60 votes to avoid a Democratic filibuster. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) told reporters Wednesday that an "overwhelming number" of his caucus oppose any spending bill that doesn't resolve the debate over the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, although GOP leaders are hoping that moderate, red-state Democrats will vote with Republicans to avert a government shutdown over immigration.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said Wednesday that no immigration deal would make it to the floor without the President's backing. "I'm looking for something that President Trump supports," McConnell said. "And he's not yet indicated what measure he's willing to sign." Trump has indicated his opposition to the bipartisan "Gang of Six" bill that was formally unveiled Wednesday, which would provide a path to citizenship for DACA recipients, while also boosting border security, ending the Diversity Visa Lottery, and restricting so-called "chain migration."

The deal has gained the support of seven Senate Republicans, including the three who negotiated it with a group of Senate Democrats. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), one of the top negotiations, said Wednesday that he would oppose the short-term spending bill if no relief is offered to the nearly 800,000 "Dreamers" who face deportation if DACA is not made permanent. Graham urged his colleagues in a floor speech to act before DACA is set to expire on March 5, saying that he is "not going to sit here on the sidelines and see these DACA recipients see their lives being turned upside down." McConnell has pointed to March 5 as the true deadline in the DACA debate, saying that no action on the program is needed until then, although Democrats have demanded that a fix be agreed to before Friday's shutdown deadline.

--- RELATED: "Trump’s on-and-off relationship with Graham hits the skids" via Politico

In an interview with Reuters on Wednesday, Trump said that the "very, very weak" bipartisan proposal is "the opposite of what I campaigned for," calling it "horrible for the security of our country." Trump also said in the interview that the deal does not provide enough funding for his proposed border wall. However, his own Chief of Staff, John Kelly, poured cold water on the wall proposal Wednesday, reportedly telling Democratic lawmakers in a meeting that "that some of the hard-line immigration policies President Trump advocated during the campaign were 'uninformed' [and] that the United States will never construct a wall along its entire southern border and that Mexico will never pay for it," according to the Washington Post.

But Trump contradicted Kelly on Twitter this morning; "The Wall is the Wall," he tweeted, insisting that "it has never changed or evolved from the first day I conceived of it."

Kelly was on Capitol Hill to meet with leaders of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus on an immigration agreement. "There's no doubt in my mind there's going to be a deal," Kelly told Fox News, although his meeting with Democrats did not produce any consensus on the issue. "Nothing was agreed on," Senate Minority Whip Dick durbin (D-IL) told reporters.

Democrats remain angered over Trump reportedly labeling African nations as "shithole countries" at a meeting with lawmakers last week, while he was pushing for fewer immigrants from Africa and Haiti and for more from Norway and Asia. Congressional Black Caucus chairman Cedric Richmond (D-LA) and House Judiciary Committee ranking member Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) are expected to unveil a resolution today censuring Trump for his profane language.

As it remains unclear whether there will be enough votes for the CR to pass in both the House and Senate, both parties have already begun blaming the other for a potential government shutdown, with Republicans accusing Democrats of voting against keeping the government open because of illegal immigration, and Democrats saying the Republican majorities shouldn't need help from the minority party.

Bannon to be interviewed by Mueller team

Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon has reached a deal with special counsel Robert Mueller's team, allowing him to sit for a voluntary interview with prosecutors instead of forcibly testifying before the grand jury, CNN reported on Wednesday. The New York Times reported a day earlier that Bannon had been subpoenaed to testify by Mueller, although that report noted the likelihood that the special counsel would agree to a less formal interview.

Meanwhile, Bannon is ignoring another subpoena from the House Intelligence Committee, after an appearance before the panel on Tuesday. Bannon frustrated lawmakers by refusing to answer their questions on his role in the Trump transition and administration, although he merely cited White House instructions while stopping short of invoking executive privilege. After Democratic and Republican lawmakers united to issue a subpoena to force him to answer questions on the spot, Bannon spoke to the White House and continued his resistance to offering answers.

--- RELATED: "Inside the room: What Steve Bannon told Congress" via Axios

The leaders of the committee's Russia investigation, Reps. Michael Conaway (R-TX) and Adam Schiff (D-CA), sent a letter to Bannon's attorney William Bruck demanding that the ex-strategist return before the panel at 2pm today, according to the Washington Post. Bruck reportedly responded that the request was "unreasonable," signaling that another meeting with the panel this week is unlikely.

Although Bannon was tight-lipped with lawmakers, he will reportedly answer questions when sitting down with Mueller. Bannon will "tall all to Mueller," a source close to the former Trump aide has told multiple news outlets.

The Rundown

"Ty Cobb, Trump's lawyer, says president 'very eager' to talk to Mueller (CBS News): Ty Cobb, who is coordinating the White House's contacts with special counsel Robert Mueller, told CBS' "The Takeout" that there are "active discussions" about a Trump-Mueller interview, and that the President is "very eager" to speak with the special counsel. Cobb, who has set a number of dates which he said the investigation would end by, added that he expects the Mueller probe to be over in four to six weeks.

"How Michael Wolff Got Into the White House for His Tell-All Book" (Bloomberg): The "Fire and Fury" author was "able to exploit an inexperienced White House staff" by telling them his book would be sympathetic to Trump, with a working title of "The Great Transition: The First 100 Days of the Trump Administration."

"Senate committee advances Trump's nominee for HHS secretary" (Politico): The Senate Finance Committee advanced the nomination of Alex Azar to lead the Department of Health and Human Services in a 15-12 vote on Wednesday..One Democrat, Delaware's Tom Carper, voted in support of the former pharmaceutical executive.

"U.S. Interior Department blasts resigning National Parks board members" (Reuters): The Interior Department responded Wednesday to the resignations of seven of the 10 members of the National Parks Service advisory board, who said they were being ignored by the Trump Administration. The Interior Department said the resignations were "welcome" and accused the advisory board of turning a "blind eye to women being sexually harassed at National Parks."

"Investigators Are Scrutinizing Newly Uncovered Payments By The Russian Embassy" (BuzzFeed News): Robert Mueller's investigators are reportedly looking at newly uncovered financial transactions between Russian diplomatic accounts and U.S. people or businesses.

"More Details Emerge About Trump's Relationship with Porn Star" (New York Times): More details on the hush money paid to a pornographic-film actress to stay quiet about an alleged relationship with future President Trump.

The President's Schedule: Pennsylvania election

At 10am, President Trump meets with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in the Oval Office.

At11am, the President meets with senior military leadership at the Pentagon.

At2:45pm, Trump tours H&K Equipment Company in Coraopolis, Pennsylvania. Trump's visit doubles as a stop in Pennsylvania's 18th congressional district, ahead of a March 18 special election in the district. State Rep. Rick Saccone is the Republican nominee to fill the seat opened by Tim Murphy's resignation following an extramarital affair. According to the New York Times, increased Democratic enthusiasm and victories in GOP-leaning special elections like the Senate race in Alabama last month and a State Senate race in Wisconsin on Tuesday has "raised alarms in the White House and among Republican leaders" ahead of the Pennsylvania race, despite the district's conservative bent. The Times described national Republicans "scrambling" to help Saccone: Vice President Mike Pence is set to follow Trump to the district next month, and House Republicans hosted him for a D.C. fundraiser on Wednesday to boost his "lackluster" fundraising.

Saccone faces Democrat Connor Lamb, a former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania. Trump tweeted this morning: "Will be going to Pennsylvania today in order to give my total support to RICK SACCONE, running for Congress in a Special Election (March 13). Rick is a great guy. We need more Republicans to continue our already successful agenda!"

Today in the Senate

The Senate convenes at 11am today. The chamber will resume consideration of the six-year reauthorization of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which authorizes U.S. intelligence agencies to monitor foreign communications. The chamber will hold a roll call vote on the measure at 12:15pm. Despite protests from members on both sides that the reauthorization does not address privacy concerns about the government's ability to monitor conversations involving U.S. citizens, the Senate voted 60-38 to advance the bill on Tuesday.

Today in the House

The House convenes at 10am today. The chamber will hold debate on a continuing resolution (CR) extending government funding through February 16 before holding a final vote on the measure.


Corrections from Wednesday's newsletter...

  • I misstated the name of the Secretary of Homeland Security. Her name is Kirstjen Nielsen.
  • I misstated the results of a poll on "fake news." 42% of Republicans said they "always" deem "Accurate news stories casting a politician or political group in a negative light" to be "fake news," while 26% of Democrats said the same.