I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Monday, January 29, 2018. 281 days until Election Day 2018. 1,009 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at email@example.com. Tell your friends to sign up to receive the newsletter in their inbox at wakeuptopolitics.com/subscribe!
Driving the week: Immigration, Russia, SOTU
Immigration talks: With a week and a half until the next government shutdown deadline (February 8), negotiations on immigration will continue this week as lawmakers seek to find a deal on the issue. Neither side is reportedly optimistic about the talks, which will likely drag on in the coming weeks and months as Congress is expected to pass more short-term spending bills.
The two parties can't even agree on when to meet: a spokesman for Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) says that the Trump Administracanceled canceled a briefing scheduled for today, while the Administration says it was nothing more than a "scheduling issue," and that the meeting will still be held. It is unclear if the meeting, which is set to be attended by Durbin, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX), House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD), and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), will go on today. The meeting was going to be an opportunity for White House chief of staff John Kelly and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to brief lawmakers on the Trump Administration's immigration framework.
The White House released details of the framework last week. The outline called for a path to citizenship for 1.8 million "Dreamers," including DACA recipients and immigrations who were eligible for DACA but never applied, as well as steep cuts to legal immigration. The plan would limit "chain migration," which allows U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents to sponsor their relatives for green cards, end the diversity visa lottery, which aims to give permanent residency to individuals from countries that don't send many immigrants to the U.S. The framework also outlined a boost in border security measures, including a $25 billion trust fund to construct President Trump's proposed border wall. The White House has promised to make more details of the framework publicly available today.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has already rejected Trump's plan, joining other congressional Democrats in criticizing the imposed limits on legal immigration. "While @realDonaldTrump finally acknowledged that the Dreamers should be allowed to stay here and become citizens, he uses them as a tool to tear apart our legal immigration system and adopt the wish list that anti-immigration hardliners have advocated for years," Schumer tweeted. Schumer told the Washington Post that after the three-day shutdown, he is moving forward with negotiations -- but without the President. "If he disappears, we still, I think, have a very good chance to pass things, as long as he doesn’t mess it all up, which could very well happen," Schumer said.
Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) seem to be following different strategies: she voted against the three-week CR he negotiated lastweek, and is continuing to say that spending talks are linked to the immigration negotiations, even as Senate Democrats are moving away from that stance.
Trump's immigration plan was largely panned on Sunday shows this weekend, as lawmakers from both parties defended some of the immigration programs Trump is seeking to cut and conservatives said that the plan amounted to "amnesty" for illegal immigrants. White House legislative director Marc Short insisted on "Fox News Sunday" that the plan will "get widespread support on our side." He added: "The question is are Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi willing to provide cover to their members from the radical left-wing base." McCarthy said on NBC's "Meet the Press" that the framework has "a lot of merit" and shows that Trump is "serious about solving this problem," but emphasized that Democratic support will be needed before any legislation can pass.
Pessimism is setting in among groups advocating for a DACA deal, CNN reports, as the gap between the White House and Democratic lawmakers seems "insurmountable."
Russia probe: Another leading topic on the Sunday shows: questions over whether Congress should take action to protect special counsel Robert Mueller after a New York Times report last week that President Trump attempted to fire Mueller last June. Republican lawmakers were split on the issue. "I don't think there's a need for legislation right now to protect Mueller," McCarthy said on "Meet the Press." "Right now there's not an issue. So why create one when there isn't a place for it?"
However, some Republicans appeared open to legislation that would prevent Trump from dismissing Mueller. On CNN's "State of the Union," Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) said that "it probably wouldn't hurt" for Congress to pass such a bill; Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said on ABC's "This Week" that he would be "glad to pass [a bipartisan bill he drafted to protect Mueller] right now," but he stressed that there is no urgency to do so. "I see no evidence that Mr. Trump wants to fire Mr. Mueller now," Graham said. "So I think we're in a good spot with Mr. Mueller." Graham added: "It's pretty clear to me that everybody in the White House knows it would be the end of President Trump's presidency if he fired Mr. Mueller." Collins said it would be a "terrible mistake."
Democrats continued their calls for Mueller to be protected, with some even raising the possibility of including such a provision in the next spending bill.
Meanwhile, the House Intelligence Committee is set to meet this evening; the panel may vote on whether to release chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA)'s memo alleging that the FBI abused the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) in requesting surveillance warrants for members of the Trump campaign. Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd has said it would be "extraordinarily reckless" to release the memo without allowing the Justice Department to read it, but the White House has endorsed the memo's release. "[President Trump] believes that that should be put out," Marc Short said on "Fox News Sunday." "The president is more inclinedfor transparency in this investigation."
According to the Washington Post, White House chief of staff John Kelly has relayed Trump's desire for the memo to be made public to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, as the Justice Department continues to oppose the classified document's release. The Post reported that Trump's frustration with Sessions' agency continue; he "has complained to confidants and aides in recent weeks that he does not understand why he cannot simply give orders to 'my guys' at what he sometimes calls the 'Trump Justice Department,'" the report said, a reflection of his difficult transition from "[executive of a private family business" to a the head of a sprawling bureaucracy where "his subordinates have sworn an oath to the Constitution rather than to him."
Trump's ire over the Russia investigation has turned to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees Mueller's investigation, according to CNN. The network reported that Trump has mentioned firing Rosenstein in recent weeks, which was confirmed by the Washington Post. According to the New York Times, Rosenstein is the main target of the Nunes memo, which alleges that he "approved an application to extend surveillance" of former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page "shortly after taking office last spring," relying largely on the infamous "Steele dossier," which was partly financed by Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign and a Democratic law firm.
--- Sanctions deadline: Today is the deadline for the Trump Administration to "begin imposing sanctions against entities doing business with Russia’s defense and intelligence sectors as well as to produce a hotly anticipated list of oligarchs maintaining close ties to Putin," according to Politico, as mandated by the bipartisan Russian sanctions legislation that Trump reluctantly signed last August. Lawmakers from both parties are hopeful that Trump will move forward with the sanctions, but many worry that he will opt not to, prioritizing his attempts to cool the U.S. relationship with Moscow.
State of the Union: President Trump will deliver his first State of the Union address on Tuesday; aides say that he will aim to "flip the script" on the controversial first year of his presidency, aiming to focus on bipartisanship and topics both sides are hoping to work on, including infrastructure and immigration. Trump is also expected to detail the economic successes of his first year. Will Trump stick to the script and present a new tone in Tuesday's highly-watched speech? Much more coverage of the State of the Union coming in tomorrow's newsletter...
GOP finance chairman resigns amid sexual harassment allegations
Republican National Committee finance chairman Steve Wynn resigned on Saturday, following allegations reported by the Wall Street Journal from dozens of people that he had engaged in a "decades-long pattern of sexual misconduct." The report included allegations that the billionaire casino magnate pressured employees to perform sexual acts; he denied the accusations, telling the Journal, "The idea that I ever assaulted any woman is preposterous."
RNC chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel announced Wynn's resignation in a simple one-sentence statement, which made no mention of the allegations against him. "The unbelievable success we have achieved must continue," Wynn said in his own statement. "The work we are doing to make America a better place is too important to be impaired by this distraction. I thank the President for the opportunity to serve and wish him continued success."
President Trump tapped Wynn to lead the party's fundraising efforts after the 2016 elections; the two have a long relationship as fellow Las Vegas casino owners. According to Axios, McDaniel and Trump discussed the situation by phone on Saturday morning.
Two Republican senators, Susan Collins (ME) and Lindsey Graham (SC), urged the GOP to return donations from Wynn on Sunday. After sexual harassment allegations emerged against Harvey Weinstein, the RNC called on Democrats to return donations they had received from the Hollywood producer; however, the RNC has yet to comment on whether it would return Wynn's donations. According to Politico, Wynn gave more than $248,000 to the committee in the past five years, as well as $411,000 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and $100,000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee. Other GOP candidates, including House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), said Sunday that they would donate contributions they had received from Wynn to charity.
--- "The Reckoning" continues... The allegations against Wynn were not the only ones to rock the political world this weekend. The New York Times reported on Friday that Burns Strider, a faith adviser to Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign, was "accused of repeatedly sexually harassing a young subordinate" but kept on the campaign at Clinton's request. According to the Times, Clinton resisted a recommendation from her campaign manager to fire Strider, instead docking several weeks of pay from him and moving the young woman to a new job. According to BuzzFeed, his behavior continued after taking a senior role at Correct the Record, a pro-Clinton super PAC. "I was dismayed when [the allegations] occurred, but was heartened the young woman came forward, was heard, and had her concerns taken seriously and addressed," Clinton tweeted on Friday night, offering no explanation of why she had kept Strider in his position on the campaign.
Meanwhile, late Saturday night, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) announced that he had fired his Chief of Staff for violating "office policies regarding proper relations between a supervisor and their subordinates," removing the aide a day after "allegations of improper conduct" were brought to his attention.
Buzz Quote: Trump on feminism
"No, I wouldn't say I'm a feminist. I mean, I think that would be, maybe, going too far. I'm for women, I'm for men, I’m for everyone." -- President Donald Trump to British talk show host Piers Morgan in an interview that aired on ITV on Sunday night.
The President's Schedule: Azar swearing-in
At 11am, President Trump receives his daily intelligence briefing.
At 11:30am, the President participates in the swearing-in ceremony for Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, who was confirmed by the Senate in a 55-43 vote last week.
At 12:10pm, Trump has lunch with the United Nations Security Council. According to the Washington Examiner, the working lunch is "part of an effort to rally an international coalition against Iran."
Vice President's Schedule: Donor summit
Vice President Mike Pence will participate today in a daylong donor summit at the Trump Hotel in Washington hosted by his leadership PAC, Great America Committee. Pence will speak at a lunch this afternoon and then headline a dinner expected to raise about $500,000. According to Politico, the event is expected to be attended by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA), Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, and Gov. Matt Bevin (R-KY). Donald Trump Jr. will introduce the Vice President at the dinner.
Pence launched Great America Committee last year to support Republican candidates in the 2018 midterms; NBC News reported at the time that he is the first sitting Vice President to form this type of political group.
Today in Congress: 20-week abortion ban
The Senate holds a cloture vote today on the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, a House-passed bill banning late-term abortions after 20 weeks. The measure is not expected to receive the 60 votes it would need to advance; according to the Wall Street Journal, it is "almost certain to fail," although it will force Democrats facing re-election in GOP-leaning states to take a side on the controversial issue.
If the bill fails the cloture vote, the chamber will hold a procedural vote on the nomination ofDavidStras to be a U.S. Circuit Judge for the Eighth Circuit. Stras, who currently serves as an Associate Justice on the Minnesota Supreme Court, is expected to be confirmed later this week, becoming the 13th circuit court judge of the Trump Administration, a much higher number than his predecessors had at this point in their presidencies.