4 min read

Wake Up To Politics - May 1, 2018

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Tuesday, May 1, 2018. 189 days until Election Day 2018. 917 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at gabe@wakeuptopolitics.com.

The Russia investigation

The New York Times obtained the list of questions that special counsel Robert Mueller wants to ask President Donald Trump about, which Mueller recently provided to Trump's legal team. The questions are wide-ranging, touching on presidential decisions that are being investigated as potential obstruction of justice — such as his firings of former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former FBI Director James Comey, and his ruminations about dismissing Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the special counsel himself — as well as probing his knowledge of ties to Russia during the campaign, such as the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting, attempts by Jared Kushner to set up a backchannel to Moscow, and discussions with his personal lawyer Michael Cohen about a Trump Tower in Russia.

Many of the questions seize on topics that have already been publicly reported on. Others — such as the intriguing, "What knowledge did you have of any outreach by your campaign, including by Paul Manafort, to Russia about potential assistance to the campaign?" — have not.

The full list of questions is here.

--- Trump's response: "So disgraceful that the questions concerning the Russian Witch Hunt were “leaked” to the media. No questions on Collusion. Oh, I see...you have a made up, phony crime, Collusion, that never existed, and an investigation begun with illegally leaked classified information. Nice!" ... "It would seem very hard to obstruct justice for a crime that never happened! Witch Hunt!"

--- Meanwhile, via the Washington Post: "Conservative House allies of President Trump have drafted articles of impeachment against Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, who oversees the ongoing special counsel probe, setting up a possible GOP showdown over the federal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election."

Inside the White House

White House chief of staff John Kelly has made repeated comments to colleagues in recent months "that include insulting the president's intelligence and casting himself as the savior of the country," NBC News reported. According to the report, Kelly has referred to Trump as "an idiot" multiple times and mocked "what he sees as Trump's lack of knowledge about policy and government." The network also detailed comments by Kelly that have made female staffers uncomfortable, such as his frequent claim that "women are more emotional than man" and his defense of former Whtie House staff secretary Rob Porter, who was accused by two ex-wives of domestic abuse.

Another report from CNN added that Kelly referred to Trump as "unhinged" during a meeting with top national security officials last month.

--- Kelly's response: "I spend more time with the President than anyone else and we have an incredibly candid and strong relationship. He always knows where I stand and he and I both know this story is total BS. I am committed to the President, his agenda, and our country. This is another pathetic attempt to smear people close to President Trump and distract from the administration’s many successes."

--- Trump's response: "The Fake News is going crazy making up false stories and using only unnamed sources (who don’t exist). They are totally unhinged, and the great success of this Administration is making them do and say things that even they can’t believe they are saying. Truly bad people!" ... "The White House is running very smoothly despite phony Witch Hunts etc. There is great Energy and unending Stamina, both necessary to get things done. We are accomplishing the unthinkable and setting positive records while doing so! Fake News is going 'bonkers!'"

--- Meanwhile, via the Wall Street Journal: Trump is considering tapping Kelly to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs after his initial nominee to fill the vacancy, Dr. Ronny Jackson, withdrew last week. Kelly is a retired Marine general who served as Secretary of Homeland Security earlier in the Trump Administration.

The Rundown

--- Trade: President Donald Trump on Monday evening extended a temporary exemption from steel and aluminum tariffs for Canada, Mexico, and the European Union. Trump's tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum would have gone into effect at 12:01am this morning; instead, these key allies have until June 1 to reach a trade deal with the Trump Administration that will allow them to avoid the tariffs.  

--- Pruitt: Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt's former deputy chief of staff, Kevin Chmielewski, told ABC News that Pruitt was "bold-faced" lying when he testified before Congress that no EPA employees received retaliation for raising concerns about the administrator's spending decisions. Chmielewski maintains that he was "100 percent" forced out for speaking up about Pruitt's first-class travel.

--- Jackson fallout: Vice President Mike Pence's doctor privately raised concerns about Dr. Ronny Jackson, the president's physician, with White House aides last fall, per CNN, months before Jackson was nominated to lead the VA... the Defense Department said Monday that the Pentagon's inspector general has received the allegations of misconduct that caused Jackson's VA nomination to collapse and has begun to look into whether a formal probe is necessary...

Do you like Wake Up To Politics? Share it with your friends! Tell them to sign up for the newsletter at wakeuptopolitics.com/subscribe.

The President's schedule

At 11am, President Trump receives his intelligence briefing.

At 12pm, President Trump presents the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy to the U.S. Military Academy football team.

At 1:45pm, President Trump welcomes the crew and passengers of Southwest Airlines Flight 1380 to the White House.

--- At 2:30pm, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders will brief the press.

Today in Congress

Both houses of Congress are on recess.

*All times Eastern