Wake Up To Politics - June 7, 2017
I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It's Wednesday, June 7, 2017. 517 days until Election Day 2018. 1,245 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!
Trump Taps New FBI Director President Donald Trump has chosen his nominee for FBI director, he announced on Wednesday via Twitter. "I will be nominating Christopher A. Wray, a man of impeccable credentials, to be the new Director of the FBI. Details to follow," Trump tweeted.
Wray served for nearly a decade in the Justice Department, first as assistant U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia and later as Associate Deputy Attorney General, Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General, and finally as Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division under President George W. Bush.
Since leaving the government, Wray has worked at a Washington, D.C. law firm representing clients including Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ), who he acted as personal attorney for during the Bridgegate trials. Wray's nomination comes after a drawn-out process following Trump's sudden firing of former FBI director James Comey, in which many top candidates withdrew from consideration.
New Revelations in the Russian Investigation A number of new reports related to the Russian investigation came out on Tuesday. Here's a summary of what you need to know:
Washington Post: "Top intelligence official told associates Trump asked him if he could intervene with Comey on FBI Russia probe" President Trump asked Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats to "intervene" with then-FBI director James Comey to attempt to curtail the bureau's probe into former national security advisor Michael Flynn, the Post reported. According to the report, the request came in an Oval Office conversation with Coats and CIA director Mike Pompeo on March 22, just days after Coats was confirmed by the Senate and Comey had confirmed the FBI investigation into the Trump campaign's ties with Russia.
According to the Post, Coats deemed the request "inappropriate" and later relayed it to associates. A spokesman for Coats told the Post that "he has never felt pressured by the President or anyone else in the Administration to influence any intelligence matters or ongoing investigations.” The Democratic National Committee immediately jumped on the story, releasing a statement on the revelations; New York Times Washington Bureau Chief Rhys Blakely said on Twitter that the report had "strong Watergate vibes."
New York Times: "Comey Told Sessions: Don't Leave Me Alone With Trump" The Times reported on another relating to James Comey's interactions with President Trump before he was removed as FBI director. According to the report, Comey went to Attorney General Jeff Sessions in February and asked not "to be left alone again with the president."
This request, which Sessions said he "could not guarantee," reportedly came a day after Trump asked Comey to end the investigation of former national security advisor Michael Flynn's ties to Russia, although Comey did not inform Sessions of that breach in protocol. The Times said, "His unwillingness to be alone with the president reflected how deeply Mr. Comey distrusted Mr. Trump, who Mr. Comey believed was trying to undermine the F.B.I.'s independence."
CNN: "US suspects Russian hackers planted fake news behind Qatar crisis" Five Middle Eastern countries (Saudia Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Bahrain, and Yemen) severed ties with Qatar on Monday, citing the government's alleged support of terrorists. The move put the United States in a difficult spot, as those countries are among the top U.S. allies in the region, but Qatar hosts the largest U.S. military base in the Middle East.
CNN reported on Tuesday that the FBI believes Russian hackers planted a story in Qatari media falsely claiming that their ruler made remarks friendly to Iran, which caused the diplomatic crisis on Monday. Russia has denied the allegations.
"The alleged involvement of Russian hackers intensifies concerns by US intelligence and law enforcement agencies that Russia continues to try some of the same cyber-hacking measures on US allies that intelligence agencies believe it used to meddle in the 2016 elections," the report said. "US officials say the Russian goal appears to be to cause rifts among the US and its allies."
The situation is further complicated by President Trump's tweets on Tuesday taking credit for Saudia Arabia and the other nations severing ties with Qatar, adding: "Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism!" The Defense Department quickly cleaned up the tweets, telling reporters that the U.S. has "no plans to change our posture in Qatar" and is "grateful to the Qataris for the longstanding support of our presence and their enduring commitment to regional security."
CNN's report on the extent of Russia's attempt to interfere with U.S. alliances follows a report from The Intercept on Monday, which said that "Russian military intelligence executed a cyberattack on at least one U.S. voting software supplier and sent spear-phishing emails to more than 100 local election officials just days before last November’s presidential election." Just hours after the story was posted, the Justice Department formally charged contractor Reality Leigh Winner in connection with the leak.
Senate Intelligence Committee vice chairman Mark Warner (D-VA) confirmed to reporters on Tuesday that Russian interference into the U.S. election was "much broader than has been reported so far."
Another big story that dropped on Tuesday... ABC: "Jeff Sessions suggested he could resign amid rising tension with President Trump" Attorney General Jeff Sessions offered his resignation to President Trump recently, following a number of heated exchanges between the two men, ABC reported. Trump declined the offer, but remains frustrated with the Attorney General. The report was later confirmed by the New York Times, the Washington Post, Politico, CNN, and other outlets.
These reports follow a New York Times story from Tuesday that said Trump "has grown sour" on Sessions, despite the Attorney General's early support of the President. The Times and other outlets have reported that Trump's anger with Sessions is due to his decision to recuse himself from the Rusian investigation. The President reportedly blames the eventual appointment of a special counsel on Sessions for that decision. "The recusal is one of the top disappointments of his presidency so far and one the president has remained fixated on," according to AB. "Trump's anger over the recusal has not diminished with time."
White House press secretary Sean Spicer declined to tell reporters on Tuesday that President Trump still has confidence in his Attorney General. "I have not had that discussion with him," Spicer said. According to CNN, officials are fearful of repeating the episode where they said publicly that Trump had confidence in Michael Flynn, only to have the President fire him hours later.
Politico reporter Josh Dawsey tweeted on Tuesday: "What seems to be increasingly the dynamic in White House: Trump ain't happy with his people. And many of them ain't happy at all."
All of these reports only serve to intensify anticipation over ousted FBI director James Comey's public testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday. Read WUTP tomorrow for a full preview of the hearing and what Comey will and won't say.
The President's Schedule While the national spotlight is on James Comey and the Russia investigation, "Infrastructure Week" continues at the White House. President Trump travels to Cincinnati, Ohio today to "meet with Obamacare victims" and then deliver remarks on his infrastructure plan. Trump is expected to elaborate on his $1 trillion package, and propose "grants for rural areas to repair crumbling bridges, roads and waterways...and more control for cities and states to do the work they feel needs to get done," according to CNN.
Today in the Senate The Senate will debate the Countering Iran's Destabilizing Activities Act today, a bill imposing sanctions on Iran over its "ballistic missile program, support for acts of international terrorism, and violations of human rights." The chamber will hold a procedural vote on the legislation today.
ALSO today: the Senate Intelligence Committee will hold an open hearing at 10am ostensibly about the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. However, the witness list includes some of the key players in the Russia probe: Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, acting FBI director Andrew McCabe, NSA director Michael Rogers, and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
All four witnesses are expected to be questioned about their interactions with President Trump, especially Coats, the subject of a Washington Post story on Tuesday that said he was asked by Trump to intervene in the FBI investigation of Michael Flynn. In addition, previous reports have said both Rogers and Coats were asked by the President to publicly deny reports of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia; Rosenstein has also faced criticism for his role in the firing of FBI director James Comey, although he has since vacated leadership of the Russia probe, appointing special counsel Robert Mueller.
Today in the House The lower chamber is set to vote on two pieces of legislation: the Anti-Border Corruption Reauthorization Act, which will broaden the requirement that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) administer polygraph examinations to applicants for law enforcement; and a resolution designating the "George C. Marshall Museum and George C. Marshall Research Library" in Lexington, Virginia as the "National George C. Marshall Museum and Library."
Today's Trivia I haven't done a trivia question in a long time, but I want to see how it will work with a larger audience. Usually, I ask a question, if you know it or can find the answer, you email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and your name is featured in the next day's edition. I'm going to see what the response is today, and we'll go from there. Here we go...
Vice President Mike Pence celebrates his 58th birthday today. Who beat Pence in both of his unsuccessful campaigns for Congress?