6 min read

Wake Up To Politics - March 15, 2018

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Thursday, March 15, 2018. 236 days until Election Day 2018. 964 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 inboxes at wakeuptopolitics.com/subscribe!

Editor's Note: In the hopes of catching up on sleep over Spring Break, I am going to take a short hiatus from Wake Up To Politics over the next few days. Look for the newsletter to return to your inbox in about a week or so!

Photos: Trump's arrival in St. Louis

President Donald Trump visited St. Louis, Missouri on Tuesday to speak at a roundtable on tax reform at a Boeing plant. I was on hand (with White House press credentials) on the tarmac as he landed at Lambert Airport, where he spent time chatting with supporters as members of the media watched. Here's a look:

From top to bottom: Air Force One; President Trump waves to supporters as he deplanes; President Trump speaking with Missouri Attorney General and Senate candidate Josh Hawley; Supporters hold memorabilia out for the President to sign, including a young boy sitting on his father's shoulders while waving his Cardinals hat; President Trump, tie flapping, enters his limousine as aide Raj Shah runs to join the motorcade. (Photos by Gabe Fleisher, Wake Up To Politics)

Trump taps Kudlow for economic post, larger shake-up possible

President Trump has chosen CNBC commentator Larry Kudlow to be the next director of the National Economic Council, the White House announced on Wednesday. Kudlow succeeds Gary Cohn, who announced plans to resign earlier this month after failing to persuade the president not to impose steel and aluminum tariffs, as Trump's top economic adviser.

Kudlow told the Wall Street Journal that the president offered him the post on Tuesday night and he "immediately accepted." According to Kudlow, he spoke again to Trump on Wednesday, as CNBC showed his picture on TV and announced the president's intention to pick him. "You're on TV," Trump told Kudlow, he recounted to the Journal. "You look very handsome."

In choosing Kudlow, Trump turns to a familiar face: a longtime informal adviser and early supporter from the campaign, as well as a commentator who frequently appears on TV. However, like Cohn, Kudlow is a free-trader who has spoken publicly against Trump's tariffs and urged the president to remain in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

"Larry Kudlow will be my Chief Economic Advisor as Director of the National Economic Council," President Trump tweeted this morning. "Our Country will have many years of Great Economic & Financial Success, with low taxes, unparalleled innovation, fair trade andanever expanding labor force leading the way! #MAGA." A formal announcement could take place today or tomorrow.

--- More personnel changes coming? Trump's replacing Cohn with Kudlow comes after he traded another official he has butted heads with, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, for another loyalist, CIA Director Mike Pompeo, on Tuesday. Rumors are flying around Washington about Trump planning a "wider senior staff shake-up," as CNN put it.

According to Fox News, this "bloodbath" could include the departures of National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster (possible replacement: former UN Ambassador John Bolton), Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin (possible replacement: Energy Secretary Rick Perry, who would in turn by replaced by Overseas Private Investment Corporation chairman Ray Washburne), and White House chief of staff John Kelly (possible replacement: Office of Management and Budget director Mick Mulvaney). Meanwhile, Vanity Fair reported that Trump is mulling replacing Attorney General Jeff Sessions with EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.

--- Per Axios: "Trump is in the mood for change, and there’s a long list of people he’s been fed up with for a while... As far as when they might go, and who might replace them, serious people are in the dark. Trump floats ideas all the time, and often nothing comes of them."

--- The Washington Post's Josh Dawsey tweets: "White House officials have begun betting pools of sorts among each other on who's getting ousted next. Lot of people who are usually in the know are not in the know. Always fluid in White House but seems particularly so right now."

--- CNN's Kaitlan Collins tweets: "Several White House officials are on edge over the recent string of firings and departures, describing the West Wing as an uneasy atmosphere. Multiple have told me they are unsure who could be fired or walked out next."

The Rundown

DACA: "Trump is floating a short-term deal protecting some young immigrants facing deportation in exchange for border wall funding in next week’s government spending bill, according to two people familiar with the discussions. But the effort lacks support among congressional Republicans. And the Trump administration is already backing away from the effort." (Politico)

Trump in Missouri: "President Trump boasted in a fundraising speech Wednesday that he made up information in a meeting with the leader of a top U.S. ally, saying he insisted to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that the United States runs a trade deficit with its neighbor to the north without knowing whether that was the case." (Washington Post)

--- "Trump broke his silence on the election at a private fundraiser for Missouri Senate candidate Josh Hawley Wednesday night, telling a crowd of donors that [Democrat Conor] Lamb had run “a pretty smart race, actually,” according to an audio recording of the remarks obtained by The Atlantic. Democrat Conor Lamb defeated Republican Rick Saccone in a district Trump won by nearly 20 points in 2016." (The Atlantic)

Stormy Daniels: "New documents obtained by CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360" on Wednesday suggest a deeper link than previously known between the Trump Organization and the company that Donald Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, established in 2016 to pay off porn star Stormy Daniels in exchange for silence about her alleged affair with Trump."

"The documents also offer the first evidence of an individual employed by the Trump Organization -- other than Cohen -- being involved in an ongoing legal battle regarding Daniels' alleged affair with Trump." (CNN)

Trump Administration: "Trump Cabinet members accused of living large at taxpayer expense (Washington Post)

--- "Ben Carson, the secretary of housing and urban development, and his wife were directly involved in selecting a $31,000 custom mahogany dining room set for his office — contrary to Mr. Carson’s claim that the decision was handled by subordinates, newly obtained documents show." (New York Times)

--- "The Environmental Protection Agency spent more than $43,000 to install a private phone booth in Administrator Scott Pruitt's office, according to newly released federal records - more than the $25,000 the agency confirmed to ABC News it originally spent for the booth." (ABC News)

2018 Central: "Now other Democratic hopefuls are looking to adopt Lamb’s strategy — he repeatedly and bluntly disavowed the Democratic leader — in their own competitive races. It raises the prospect of a slate of Democratic hopefuls running against the party’s House leader as they try to neutralize one of the GOP’s go-to attacks — a pillar of Republicans’ plan to keep the House majority in November." (Politico)

FBI: "Attorney General Jeff Sessions is reviewing a recommendation to fire the former F.B.I. deputy director, Andrew G. McCabe, just days before he is scheduled to retire on Sunday, people briefed on the matter said. Mr. McCabe was a frequent target of attack from President Trump, who taunted him both publicly and privately."

"Mr. McCabe is ensnared in an internal review that includes an examination of his decision in 2016 to allow F.B.I. officials to speak with reporters about an investigation into the Clinton Foundation." (New York Times)

Banking bill: "Congress moved a step closer to relaxing the wave of crisis-era restrictions placed on the banking industry on Wednesday, with Senate approval of a bipartisan plan to ease rules for small and midsize banks."

"The bill, which has a good chance of becoming law, would be the most significant revamp of financial rules since Republicans took control of government last year and the Trump administration set out broad goals to reduce business regulations." (Wall Street Journal)


Trump: The president meets with Prime Minister Leo Varadkar of Ireland at the White House today and attends the annual Friends of Ireland luncheon at the U.S. Capitol ahead of St. Patrick's Day. Later in the day, Trump meets with members of the American Petroleum Institute and then sits down with Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates. Finally, the president will participate in the Shamrock Bowl Presentation with Prime Minister Varadkar.

Senate: The upper chamber meets today to consider an anti-trafficking bill passed by the House. The Senate will hold no votes today out of respect for Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), who is home for her father's funeral and has never missed a roll call vote in her 21-year tenure.

House: The lower chamber is set to consider the Financial Institutions Examination Fairness and Reform Act​ and the Regulation A+ Improvement Act.

*All times Eastern