Wake Up To Politics
This is your wake up call.
Monday, March 13, 2017
603 Days until Election Day 2018
1,331 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.
- Weekend Review: U.S. Attorney in New York Fired After Resisting Requests to Resign Attorney General Jeff Sessions raised eyebrows on Friday when he asked all remaining Obama-appointed U.S. Attorneys to submit their resignations immediately. Although the federal prosecutors are generally replaced in new Administrations, the sudden request for their resignations took many by surprise, as many previous Presidents have waited to remove U.S. Attorneys until they have replacements lined up.
- “As was the case in prior transitions, many of the United States attorneys nominated by the previous administration already have left the Department of Justice,” Sessions spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said in a statement. “The Attorney General has now asked the remaining 46 presidentially appointed U.S. attorneys to tender their resignations in order to ensure a uniform transition.”
- However, one of the prosecutors, Preet Bharara engaged with Trump over the weekend when he refused to resign. Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, is based in Manhattan and has gained national attention for his crusades against public corruption and Wall Street banks.
- Trump publicly promised Bharara in November that he could remain in the U.S. Attorney post, and Bharara was essentially daring Trump to break that promise. He did. “Today, I was fired from my position as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York,” Bharara said in a statement on Saturday. “Serving my country as U.S. Attorney here for the past seven years will forever be the greatest honor of my professional life, no matter what else I do or how long I live.”
- Bharara has been known to go after politicians from both sides of the aisle, convicting former New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D) and former State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R). He has also relentlessly pursued Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and is currently investigating Fox News for its response to sexual harassment allegations leveled against former CEO Roger Ailes.
- The Southern District of New York is sometimes called the "Sovereign District of New York" due to its independence from party ties. The U.S. Attorney in the jurisdiction comes with added prestige, due to the district's accompanying FBI field office and staff of 220 assistant U.S. attorneys (making it one of the largest federal prosecutors' offices).
- Many of Bharara's predecessors continued on to higher office, with past U.S. Attorneys for the Southern District of New York going on to serve as Secretary of State (Elihu Root and Henry Stimson), Mayor of New York City (Rudy Giuliani), FBI Director (James Comey), and claim presidential nominations (1948 GOP nominee Thomas Dewey).
- What led Trump to change his mind on Bharara? According to reports, White House chief strategist Steve Bannon and Attorney General Jeff Sessions convinced him that installing their own U.S. Attorneys was necessary across the board. Others have pointed to a Thursday night segment by Fox News host Sean Hannity on Obama holdovers at the Department of Justice; the President is known to be a fan of Fox, and of Hannity in particular.
- There has also been speculation that Bharara was investigating ties between Russian government officials and Trump campaign aides, although there has been no announcement of such a probe. The former prosecutor cryptically tweeted Sunday, "By the way, now I know what the Moreland Commission must have felt like," referencing the anti-corruption panel disbanded by Gov. Cuomo in 2014 after reports that it was investigating major donors to his campaigns.
- Congressional Democrats decried Bharara's dismissal, including Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), a senior member of the Judiciary Committee, who called it "another reminder that the independence of the Justice Department is at risk under this administration." In addition, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), a former boss of Bharara's, released a statement: “Preet Bharara has been an exemplary U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York,” he said. "His relentless drive to root out public corruption, lock up terrorists, take on Wall Street, and stand up for what is right should serve as a model for all U.S. attorneys across the country. He will be sorely missed.”
- 10:30am: Receives daily intelligence briefing.
- 11am: Leads a listening session on health care. None of the attendees have been announced.
- 12:30pm: Has lunch with Vice President Mike Pence and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, who is expected to lead efforts to meet Trump's promise of passing a $1 trillion infrastructure bill.
- 3pm: Holds his first full Cabinet meeting. Currently, 20 out of the 24 Cabinet-level posts have been filled; Trump's nominees for Secretary of Agriculture, Secretary of Labor, Director of National Intelligence, and U.S. Trade Representative are awaiting confirmation.
- 4:30pm: Signs an executive order titled “Comprehensive Plan for Reorganizing the Executive Branch." No other details on the order have been released or reported.
- 6:30pm: Has dinner with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster
- Coming Soon: CBO Score on GOP Obamacare Bill The American Health Care Act (AHCA), the Obamacare replacement bill crafted by House Republican leaders, is facing its next big hurdle: a score from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), which is expected to be released in a report today or tomorrow.
- The CBO is a nonpartisan agency that predicts a piece of legislation's long-term effects. Its report on the AHCA will be closely watched for forecasts on how many Americans will be covered under the GOP health care bill and on the bill's effect on the federal deficit. If the agency predicts that the number of insured Americans drops while the deficit grows, the AHCA's already-rocky path to passage will become even more difficult.
- The White House has already begun pre-butting the CBO score. “If you're looking to the CBO for accuracy, you're looking in the wrong place,” press secretary Sean Spicer said at a briefing last week. “They were way, way off last time in every aspect of how they scored and projected Obamacare.”
- Two House committees approved the AHCA last week, despite opposition from many Republicans and Democrats alike. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) hopes to pass the bill through the lower chamber next week; a weeks-long battle is expected in the Senate, where the defection of three Republicans means the measure's death.
- A number of conservatives have expressed frustrations with the bill: Reps. Mark Meadows (R-NC) and Jim Jordan (R-OH), as well as Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Tom Cotton (R-AR), blanketed the Sunday shows this week explaining their opposition. While the AHCA keeps popular Obamacare provisions in place, such as allowing individuals under age 26 to stay on their parents' plans and preventing companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, conservatives are calling for a full repeal of the Affordable Care Act. They have branded the GOP bill as "Obamacare lite."
- “I would say to my friends in the House of Representatives with whom I serve, ‘Do not walk the plank and vote for a bill that cannot pass the Senate and then have to face the consequences of that vote,’” Cotton said on ABC's "This Week."
- Meanwhile, the White House is beginning to edge away from the proposal. On CNN's "State of the Union," Office of Management and Budget director Mick Mulvaney, a leading architect of the AHCA, referred to the legislation as a "framework," adding that "we encourage the House and Senate to try and make the bill better." Last week, President Trump tweeted that the bill was "out for review and negotiation."
- However, House Speaker Paul Ryan has not wavered in his support for the proposal. "I believe we can get 51 votes out of the Senate," he said on CBS' "Face the Nation" on Sunday. Ryan also played down the calls to change the bill, adding: "This is what the legislative process looks like...People are going to try and negotiate. People are going to say, 'I wish we could do this, let’s do that.' That’s how legislation works. Negotiations and compromises occur when you are writing law."
- House Panel Reaches Deadline on Request for Wiretapping Evidence Just over one week ago, President Donald Trump alleged on Twitter that former President Barack Obama wiretapped Trump Tower during the election and demanded that Congress investigate his claim.
- Trump has still yet to provide evidence for the claim. House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) and ranking member Adam Schuff (D-CA) requested last week that the Justice Department provide evidence for the wiretapping allegation, setting today as their deadline.
- Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) also called on Trump to release evidence on CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday. "I have no reason to believe that the charge is true, but I also believe that the President of the United States could clear this up in a minute," McCain said. "All he has to do is pick up the phone, call the director of the CIA, director of national intelligence and say, 'OK, what happened?'"
- The House Intelligence Committee investigation is part of a larger inquiry on Russian intervention into the U.S. election process, with the allegation of surveillance only added at Trump's request. Now, mere hours remain for his Administration to back up the claim.
- White House senior counselor Kellyanne Conway said on ABC's "Good Morning America" today that "I don't have any evidence and I'm very happy that the House intelligence committee [is] investigating ." On Sunday, Conway raised the prospect of alternative forms of surveillance in an interview with The Bergen Record, citing "microwaves that turn into cameras, et cetera."
- 2pm: Convenes and resumes consideration of Seema Verma to be Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
- 5:30pm: Votes on Verma's confirmation. Verma is a health policy consultant based in Indiana; she crafted the state's plan to implement Obamacare, working closely with then-Governor Mike Pence. She was approved by the Senate Finance Committee on Thursday in a 13-12 vote, along party lines; if confirmed today, Verma will helm a staff of over 4,000 and a budget of almost $1 trillion overseeing Medicare, Medicaid, and many parts of the Obamacare implementation.House Schedule
- No votes today
Quote of Note
- "We can't restore our civilization with somebody else's babies." - Rep. Steve King (R-IA)
- King's comment came Sunday in a tweet praising nationalist Dutch politician Geert Wilders. The Iowa congressman is known for his inflammatory comments on immigration; his tweet has been widely seen as a reference to children of minority races.
- Although King was praised for the tweet by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, a white nationalist ("GOD BLESS STEVE KING!!!"), he has been criticized inside his own party for the tweet, with Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) replying on Twitter: "What exactly do you mean? Do I qualify as 'somebody else's baby?' #concernedGOPcolleague."
- In addition, Iowa Republican Party chairman Jeff Kaufman condemned the comments. "I do not agree with Congressman King's statement. We are a nation of immigrants, and diversity the strength of any nation and any community," Kaufmann said. "Regarding David Duke, his words and sentiments are absolute garbage. He is not welcome in our wonderful state."
- Today's Trivia Since we "sprung forward" on Sunday...which American is credited with coming up with the idea for Daylight Saving Time?
- Think you know the answer? Email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and get your name in tomorrow's newsletter!
- Yesterday's Answer The trivia question a few days ago asked for the President who signed the most executive orders (except for three-term Franklin Roosevelt).
- The answer: Woodrow Wilson, who issued 1,803 executive orders during his eight-year tenure. Roosevelt stands at 3, 278 orders; after Wilson, the 3rd place champion is Calvin Coolidge, who signed 1,203 orders.
- GREAT JOB...Sarah M-M, Isabella Koster, Joe Bookman, Steve Gitnik, RIck Isserman, Jordan Burger, and Marlee Millman!
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.