Tuesday, January 25, 2017
650 Days until Election Day 2018
1,378 Days until Election Day 2020
Good morning! Reporting from WUTP world HQ (in my bedroom), I'm Gabe Fleisher: this is your wake up call.
White House Watch
- The President's Schedule Another busy day in Washington for President Trump, with meetings, phone calls, and executive orders aimed at immigration - including one to "build the wall":
- At 9:25am, the President will meet with White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus in the Oval Office, the second day he has scheduled a sit-down with his top aide, who would normally have walk-in privileges at any time of day in previous administrations.
- At 11am, Trump will sit for his official presidential portrait in the Oval Office,
- Then, at 1pm, President Trump will head to the Department of Homeland Security headquarters in Washington, where he will spend nearly two hours. While at DHS, Trump will attend a ceremonial swearing-in for the agency's newly-minted Secretary, Gen. John Kelly.
- He is also expected to use the time to sign several executive orders on immigration, fulfilling some of the key promises of the Trump campaign. According to CNN, the President will sign at least two orders today. The first will direct DHS to use federal funds to construct his proposed wall on the southern border, a huge undertaking that was mentioned at probably every rally Trump held during his campaign, as his supporters chanted "Build that wall."
- Other border security measures will likely be taken in the first executive order, including repairs to the existing fence on some parts of the U.S.-Mexico border and an increase of 5,000 border security agents. In addition, the order will require DHS to publish monthly reports on the amount of aid given to Mexico, possibly a sign that the Trump Administration will use federal aid to Mexico to ensure that the country pays for the wall's construction, as candidate Trump said they would.
- The second order will seek to end sanctuary cities, localities that protect undocumented immigrants from being questioned about or prosecuted for their immigration status. In addition, the order will direct a tripling in Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) agents and toughen the U.S. effort to identify criminal aliens.
- Ever possessing an eye for the photo-op, President Trump is expected to meet with "a group of mothers whose children were killed by undocumented immigrants" while at DHS, according to Politico.
- Today's executive actions are the beginning of a multi-day rollout of other immigration-focused orders. According to Reuters, executive orders on curtailing refugees and visas from specific countries are coming as early as today or tomorrow. These will likely include a temporary ban on all refugees, except those escaping religious persecution, and will suspend visas from citizens of Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen.
- At 3:25pm, the President will arrive back at the White House.
- Finally, at 4pm, he is set to call Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, most likely to discuss federal relief for the tornadoes that have ravaged the area.
- Also today: Trump will tape his first television interview since becoming President, sitting down one-on-one with David Muir, anchor of ABC's "World News Tonight." The interview will air in an hour-long special from 10pm to 11pm tonight.
- Supreme Court Pick Coming With all of his Cabinet picks announced, President Donald Trump has turned to his next looming appointment, a decision with lasting impact for the decades to come. The President told reporters on Tuesday that he plans to decide this week on his nominee to fill the Supreme Court seat left vacancy by Justice Antonin Scalia's death last February. "We'll be announcing next week," Trump said. "We have outstanding candidates, and we will pick a truly great Supreme Court justice." According to a tweet from the President this morning, the nominee will be announced on Thursday of next week.
- Multiple news outlets reported Tuesday that Trump has narrowed his short list for the appointment down to three federal appeals judges: Neil Gorsuch (10th Circuit), Thomas Hardiman (3rd Circuit), and Bill Pryor (11th Circuit). According to many of the outlets, Gorsuch is the frontrunner among the trio, followed by Hardiman. President Trump met with all of them during the transition.
- Trump consulted Tuesday with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee about the appointment. Republicans are hoping for a speedy confirmation, while Democrats - angry about the GOP's refusal to consider former President Barack Obama's nominee for the seat - are likely to drag their feet. Schumer told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow earlier this month that it is "hard for me to imagine" supporting any nominee put forward by President Trump.
- The Supreme Court is currently deadlocked, 4-4, between conservative and liberal justices; Trump's appointee will tip the balance. With all three of his top choices in their late 40's or early 50's, whoever is appointed to the seat will likely shape U.S. jurisprudence for the foreseeable future.
- All three of the top jurists under consideration for are white men appointed to their current positions by President George W. Bush; they are all known to be conservative, and all were on the list of 21 names that Trump said he would consider for the high court. The list was released by Trump's campaign last year to assure conservatives that his Supreme Court pick would carry on the legacy left by Scalia, a conservative hero. Here's a cheat-sheet on the three leading possibilities:
- Neil Gorsuch
- Known For Advocacy for religious freedom, especially a 2013 opinion supporting religious groups objecting to an Obamacare provision requring employers' insurance plans to cover contraception
- Connections Son of Anne Gorsuch, who was appointed as EPA Administrator by President Ronald Reagan; "closest on Trump's list to a Washington insider," according to the Washington Post
- Confirmation for Current Judgeship Approved by voice vote
- Past Experience Clerked for Supreme Court Justices Byron White and Anthony Kennedy, served as Deputy Associate Attorney General under George W. Bush
- Education Columbia, Harvard, and Oxford
- Age 49
- Based In Denver
- Thomas Hardiman
- Known For Support of the 2nd Amendment, especially a 2013 dissenting opinion that called for a broader interpretation of the right to bear arms to strike down a law with restrictions on handgun purchasing
- Connections Another judge on 3rd Circuit: Maryanne Trump Barry, the First Sister
- Confirmation for Current Judgeship Approved by a 95-0 vote
- Past Experience Washington, D.C. lawyer, served as a U.S. District Judge, appointed by Geroge W. Bush
- Education Notre Dame and Georgetown
- Age 51
- Based In Pittsburgh
- Bill Pryor
- Known For Hardline position on abortion, calling Roe v. Wade the "worst abomination in the history of the law"
- Connections Close friend and protege of Attorney General-designate Jeff Sessions
- Confirmation for Current Judgeship Approved by a 53-45 vote, a tougher confirmation battle than the other potential picks
- Past Experience Worked as a lawyer in Alabama and taught at Cumberland School of Law and the University of Alabama School of Law, elected Attorney General of Alabama
- Education University of Louisiana, Tulane
- Age 54
- Based In Alabama
- Trump's Latest Actions President Trump's first executive actions have been coming a few at a time, releasing more each day since taking office. On Tuesday, the President's focus was energy and infrastructure, signing memoranda to authorize construction of controversial Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines, as well as an executive order to expedite a number of other infrastructure projects.
- Keystone XL is a proposed addition to the existing Keystone pipeline, which would stretch from Canada to Nebraska and expand the pipeline by 1,179 miles; the Dakota Access pipeline is a 1,172-mile project that would go from North Dakota to Illinois. Construction of both were blocked by Trump's predecessor Barack Obama due to environmental concerns; in addition, the Dakota Access project was also protested by Native American reservations whose water sources the pipeline could endanger.
- Trump's Keystone order, a campaign promise, authorized the Secretary of State to receive applications for the pipeline expansion, and formally invited TransCanada, the Calgary-based owner of the pipeline, to "re-submit its application" for the project's construction and operation. The Dakota Access order was less straightforward, directing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to "review and approve [the request to operate the pipeline] in an expedited manner."
- Along with the two memoranda, President Trump signed a memorandum directing the Commerce Secretary to ensure that all pipelines in the U.S. "use materials and equipment produced in the United States, to the maximum extent possible and to the extent permitted by law," a memorandum to cut down on manufacturing regulations, and an executive order to expedite the environmental review process for high-level infrastructure projects. All of these additional actions follow statements made on the campaign trail, such as the President's "Buy American, Hire American" pledge and his promises to reform bureaucratic regulations and rebuild American infrastructure.
Capitol Hill News
- Senate Done with Confirmations for the Week After confirming one more Cabinet-level nominee on Tuesday, the Senate is done holding votes for the week, as congressional Republicans decamp for their three-day joint policy retreat in Philadelphia and Senate Democrats head to their retreat in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. Congress will be in recess until Monday.
- On Tuesday, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley became the fourth of Trump's nominees to be confirmed, with the Senate easily approving her to become U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. The vast majority of Democrats supported her nomination, with four exceptions: New Mexico Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, Connecticut Sen. Chris Coons, and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, an Independent who caucuses with the Democrats.
- In addition, three other nominees - Transportation Secretary-designate Elaine Chao, HUD Secretary-designate Ben Carson, and Commerce Secretary-designate Wilbur Ross - were approved by committee on Tuesday, setting up votes next week on their final confirmation. Chao, who is married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, is scheduled for a vote next Tuesday; she and Carson are expected to receive Democratic support for their confirmations. The HUD pick was unanimously approved by the Senate Banking Committee, supported even by progressive leaders Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH).
- Sen. McConnell also filed cloture on Rex Tillerson's nomination to be Secretary of State, which was advanced by the Foreign Relations Committee on Monday, setting up a procedural vote for next Monday and a final vote likely on Tuesday. Although Tillerson, formerly the Russia-friendly CEO of ExxonMobil, is one of Trump's most controversial pick, he is expected to be confirmed with the unified support of all 52 Republicans - even Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL), John McCain (R-AZ), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who were critical of the choice - and at least one Democrat, Joe Manchin (D-WV), who endorsed the nomination on Tuesday.
- However, four Trump nominees were scheduled for committee votes on Tuesday that were postponed: Betsy DeVos (Education), Jeff Sessions (Justice), Rick Perry (Energy), and Ryan Zinke (Interior). The votes on DeVos, Sessions, and Perry have been rescheduled for next Tuesday.
Quote of the Day
“All available evidence suggests that the 2016 general election was not tainted by fraud or mistake.”
- Donald J. Trump's attorneys, led by the now-White House counsel, in an objection to Jill Stein's recount to recount the 2016 presidential votes in Michigan
- Apparently, President Trump holds a different view than his team of lawyers. Congressional leaders told reporters that the President opened a meeting with them by repeating an unverified claim about illegal immigrants influencing the 2016 election. By Tuesday, the Trump White House was doubling down on the incorrect assertion.
- According to lawmakers, Trump spent the first 10 minutes of a huddle with them on Monday rehashing the 2016 election and his loss to Hillary Clinton in the popular vote. His conclusion? That the election had been swayed by 3 million to 5 million illegal votes, despite no evidence to show any widespread fraud.
- "The President has believed that for a while based on studies and information he has," White House press secretary Sean Spicer said at his Tuesday press briefing. However, Spicer failed to produce any of those studies, citing only a Pew study which he claimed to prove illegal votes were cast.
- In fact, the 2012 Pew study showed findings of outdated voter registrations, in cases where individuals died or moved. The principal author of the report tweeted two months ago, after then-President-elect Trump first made this claim, that the report "found no evidence that voter fraud resulted." Politicians from both parties countered Spicer's claim:
- House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI): "I've seen no evidence to that effect."
- National Associations of Secretaries of State, which is mostly made up of Republicans: "We are not aware of any evidence that supports the voter fraud claims made by President Trump..."
- Former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR): "I have no evidence whatsoever, and I don't know that anyone does, that there were that many illegal people who voted and frankly it doesn't matter."
- "That is a totally nonsensical statement," Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) said. Or, you might say, an alternative fact.
- @realDonaldTrump says... President Trump, however, is serious about this issue, as evidenced by a pair of tweets from his personal accounts at about 7:15am this morning: "I will be asking for a major investigation into VOTER FRAUD, including those registered to vote in two states, tose who are illegal and...even, those registered to vote who are dead (and many for a long time). Depending on results, we will strengthen up voting procedures."
- As made clear above, there is evidence of individuals registered in multiple states and of people being on the voter rules after they die, but there is NO line of evidence that has been drawn from that issue to people casting illegal ballots, which is what Trump means by "voter fraud."
- Also..."strengthen up voting procedures"? Still unclear what that is referencing, but could include large-scale voter ID efforts.
*All Times Eastern
For more on Wake Up To Politics, listen to Gabe on NPR's "Talk of the Nation", St. Louis Public Radio, the Political Junkie podcast, and on StoryCorps; watch Gabe on MSNBC's "Up with Steve Kornacki"; and read about Gabe in Politico, the Washington Post, Independent Journal, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Salon, the Globe, and the St. Louis Jewish Light.