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Wake Up To Politics - January 9, 2018

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Tuesday, January 9, 2018. 301 days until Election Day 2018. 1,029 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!

Breaking News: North Korea

Delegates from North and South Korea met along the border this morning, the first face-to-face sit-down between the two countries in over two years. A joint statement announced plans for military talks "to ease the current military tensions between the two Koreas," as well as the agreement that North Korea would send a delegation of athletes and others to the Winter Olympics in South Korea next month.
According to the Wall Street Journal, "U.S. officials are quietly debating whether it’s possible to mount a limited military strike against North Korean sites without igniting an all-out war on the Korean Peninsula"...

2018 Central

--- Ed Royce retiring: House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) announced plans to retire on Monday, opting not to seek a 14th term in 2018. "It’s truly an honor to represent the people of California’s 39th Congressional District," Royce said in a statement announcing his retirement. "Every day, it’s my mission to fight for freedom, opportunity and a limited government." Royce said that he plans to "focus fully on the urgent threats facing our nation," from North Korea to Iran to Russia, in his last year atop the Foreign Affairs panel.

Royce's seat presents a prime pick-up opportunity for Democrats: even as the popular congressman won by 15% in 2016, Hillary Clinton won his district by 9% in the presidential election. Royce's retirement caused the Cook Political Report to change its rating for the race from Lean Republican to Lean Democratic.

Royce is the 17th Republican congressman who will not seek re-election in 2018, and the seventh committee chairman.

-- #OHSEN: State Treasurer Josh Mandel (R-OH)'s sudden withdrawal from the high-stakes Ohio Senate race last week (due to his wife's health problems) has left a vacuum in the GOP primary to face Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH). One potential candidate named to fill it? J.D. Vance, author of the bestselling "Hillbilly Ellegy." According to Politico, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has discussed a potential bid with Vance. Other prospective candidates include Rep. Jim Renacci (R-OH).

-- Pence's plans: "Vice President Mike Pence is jumping into the midterm elections, planning visits soon to Nevada and Pennsylvania and helping recruit a candidate in Ohio amid an aggressive push to retain Republican control of Congress," the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday.

-- #UTSEN: Likely Utah Senate candidate Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, "was treated last summer for prostate cancer," NBC News reported on Monday, followed by other news outlets. Romney's treatment "was successful, and he has a good prognosis." Romney is widely expected to run to succeed Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), who announced his retirement last week.

The Latest: Trump Administration actions

--- Trump ends protected status for Salvadorans: The Department of Homeland Security announced on Monday that the "Temporary Protected Status" (TPS) granted to 195,000 residents of El Salvador after a pair of earthquakes hit the country in 2001 will end in September. The status has allowed the Salvadorans to live and work legally in the U.S., shielded from deportation. Salvadoran nationals are the largest group holding TPS, making up 61% of the 317,000+ who benefit from the status, according to NPR.

--- Perry energy plan rejected: In a unanimous decision on Monday, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) rejected Energy Secretary Rick Perry's proposal to subsidize coal and nuclear plants. Four out of five members of FERC were appointed by President Trump. The New York Times called the move "a major blow to the Trump Administration's efforts to revive America's declining coal industry."

The Rundown

--- "The White House struggles to silence talk of Trump’s mental fitness" (Washington Post): "The White House is struggling to contain the national discussion about President Trump’s mental acuity and fitness for the job, which has overshadowed the administration’s agenda for the past week."
..."Doubts about Trump’s state of mind have been whispered about in Washington’s corridors of power since before he was elected and have occasionally broken into the open, such as when Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said last August that Trump lacked 'the stability' and 'some of the competence' to be successful as president."

"But Wolff’s book has thrust the topic to the forefront of public debate, prompting the White House to confront the issue directly."

--- "Puzder resurfaces in Trump's White House in spite of #MeToo movement" (Politico): "The White House is considering finding a role for Andrew Puzder, President Donald Trump’s first pick for labor secretary, who withdrew his nomination in February after old allegations of domestic abuse resurfaced, according to three people familiar with the discussions."

"It’s not clear what role Puzder might take in the administration, these people said, though it would have to be a non-Senate-confirmed slot given his withdrawal as labor secretary. Puzder, who denied the abuse allegations made by his ex-wife in a 1990 appearance on 'The Oprah Winfrey Show,' also acknowledged employing an undocumented immigrant as a housekeeper before dropping out."

"Puzder, the former chief executive of CKE Restaurants — the parent company of Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s — is generally well-liked inside the West Wing and has maintained a strong relationship with the president, forged through their shared experiences as businessmen...On Monday morning, the White House press shop blasted out a Wall Street Journal op-ed penned by Puzder...Lately, Puzder has raised his public profile by working as an unpaid policy adviser to America First Policies."
--- "Talk of Oprah running for president captivates Democrats" (Washington Post): "From Hollywood to Iowa, a sudden wave of enthusiasm for Oprah Winfrey as a potential presidential candidate swept through the Democratic Party on Monday, beginning as a social-media sensation after her rousing remarks at Sunday night’s Golden Globes ceremony and escalating nationally as party officials and activists earnestly considered the possibility."

"The calls for Winfrey, a cultural icon and friend of former president Barack Obama’s, to look hard at entering the 2020 race against President Trump revealed a longing among Democrats for a global celebrity of their own who could emerge as their standard-bearer and his foil." Including responses from Democratic and Republican operatives, Kirsten Gillibrand, Nancy Pelosi, Meryl Streep, and others... Per CNN, Winfrey is "actively thinking" about a presidential bid... and even Ivanka Trump is offering her praise...

--- "Fusion GPS Founder Hauled from the Shadows for the Russia Election Investigation" (New York Times): "In a past career, Glenn R. Simpson had been a reporter’s reporter, tenacious through two decades in journalism, often driving the Washington story of the day — congressional corruption, fund-raising shenanigans, sundry misbehavior — but never becoming it himself."

..."As investigators circle President Trump’s administration over ties to Russia during the 2016 campaign, Mr. Simpson, a 53-year-old Wall Street Journal veteran-turned-master of high-dollar research, has arrived at the biggest story of either of his careers, lurching to the center of the Russia-tinged scandal that clouds the presidency."

..."Mr. Simpson is the man behind an explosive dossier — produced at his firm, Fusion GPS, with a former British spy, Christopher Steele — outlining possible connections between the president, his associates and Russian officials."

The President's Schedule

At 11:30am, President Trump meets with a bipartisan group of lawmakers on immigration. According to the White House, the meeting will include Republican Sens. John Cornyn (TX), Tom Cotton (AR), Jeff Flake (AZ), Cory Gardner (CO), Lindsey Graham (SC), Chuck Grassley (IA), James Lankford (OK), David Perdue (GA), and Thom Tillis (NC); Democratic Sens. Dick Durbin (IL), Dianne Feinstein (CA), Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Bob Menendez (NJ), and Jon Tester (MT); Republican Reps. Kevin McCarthy (CA), Bob Goodlatte (VA), and Michael McCaul (TX); and Democratic Reps. Steny Hoyer (MD), Henry Cuellar (TX), and Bernie Thompson (MS). White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, White House senior advisor Stephen Miller, and White House legislative director Marc Short will also be in attendance.

The meeting comes as CNN reports that negotiations on a legislative version of the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program have "hit a snag," with Republicans accusing Democrats of holding a potential spending deal "hostage" in exchange for a deal on "Dreamers," and Democrats frustrated by a list of policies that the White House says must accompany a DACA deal.

According to Politico, Republicans are "increasingly skeptical that they'll reach a long-term budget agreement with Democrats" before the January 19 shutdown deadline. Many Democrats are refusing to support a spending package until a DACA deal is struck.

At 1:45pm, the President signs an Executive Order on "Supporting our Veterans during their Transition from Uniformed Service to Civilian Life."

At 2:30pm, Trump meets with Defense Secretary James Mattis.

--- According to Axios, which obtained the President's private schedule (his public schedule is detailed above), Trump's official day lasts from 11am to 4:15pm today, and includes two and a half hours of "Executive Time," which he reportedly spends "in his residence, watching TV, making phone calls and tweeting."

Today in Congress

--- Senate: The Senate meets at 10am today. Following Leader remarks, the chamber will resume consideration of the nomination of William L. Campbell to be a U.S. District Judge for the Middle District of Tennessee. Campbell, a Nashville-based civil litigation attorney, was advanced by the Senate in an 89-1 vote on Monday, with a sole opposing vote from Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI).

After recessing from 12:30pm to 2:15pm for weekly caucus meetings, the Senate will hold a confirmation vote on Campbell's nomination. Following the Campbell vote, the chamber will hold a vote advancing the nomination of Thomas Lee Robinson Parker to be a U.S. District Judge for the Western District of Tennessee. Parker, a Memphis-based lawyer, is the second of four district court nominees set to be considered by the Senate this week.

Also today: The Senate Finance Committee holds a confirmation hearing for Alex Azar, President Trump's nominee to lead the Department of Health and Human Services. His record as President of pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly and Company is likely to dominate the hearing; Azar also served in the George W. Bush Administration as General Counsel and then Deputy Secretary of HHS.

--- House: The House meets at 10am today. The lower chamber is set to vote on 14 bills, mostly focused on homeland security, and one resolution, "supporting the rights of the people of Iran to free expression [and] condemning the Iranian regime for its crackdown on legitimate protests."