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Wake Up To Politics - May 2, 2018

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Wednesday, May 2, 2018. 188 days until Election Day 2018. 916 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at gabe@wakeuptopolitics.com.

The Russia Investigation

Special counsel Robert Mueller raised the possibility of a presidential subpoena in a March 5 meeting with President Trump's legal team, the Washington Post reported. Trump's lawyers were meeting with Mueller to negotiate an interview between the president and special counsel, and the lawyers insisted that Trump had no obligation to meet with Mueller. The special counsel reportedly responded by reminding them that he could issue a subpoena to compel President Trump to appear before a grand jury, the first time he is known to have floated such a move.

"This isn't some game. You are screwing with the work of the president of the United States," John Dowd, then leading Trump's legal team, responded, according to The Post. A number of news outlets have confirmed the details of the meeting; Dowd himself confirmed to the Associated Press that Mueller broached the "extraordinary idea of forcing a sitting president to testify under oath," an unprecedented action that could lead to a historic Supreme Court battle.

--- Background: The revelation that Mueller is at least considering a presidential subpoena comes amid his protracted negotiations with Trump's legal team about an interview. Those negotiations are now being led by former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, who is now President Trump's top outside lawyer handling the Russia probe; Giuliani told the Wall Street Journal after meeting with Mueller last week that he is "trying to assess" whether the special counsel's team "really [has] an open mind" and "good faith" towards the president.

The negotiations are further complicated by the New York Times' publication on Monday of the 48 questions Mueller plans to ask Trump, on questions ranging from the president's ties to Russia to his potential obstruction of justice. According to The Post, "The president and several advisers now plan to point to the list as evidence that Mueller has strayed beyond his mandate and is overreaching."

--- Analysis of Mueller's list and what they mean for a potential presidential interview: "Why Answering Mueller's Questions Could be a Minefield for Trump" (New York Times)


--- Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein fired back at his House Republican critics on Tuesday, after the Washington Post reported that conservative lawmakers had drafted articles of impeachment against him. "There have been people who have been making threats privately and publicly against me for quite some time and I think they should understand by now that the Department of Justice is not going to be exorted," Rosenstein said at a Law Day event at the Newseum, when asked about the articles impeachment. "We're going to do what's required by the rule of law, and any kind of threats that anybody makes are not going to affect the way we do our job."

House Freedom Caucus chairman Mark Meadows (R-NC), one of Rosenstein's top opponents in Congress, responded in a statement: "Rosenstein's stonewalling of this investigation has already embarrassed the Department of Justice and the rule of law. If he believes being asked to do his job is 'exortion,' then Rod Rosenstein should step aside and allow us to find a new Deputy Attorney General—preferably one who is interested in transparency."

Rosenstein is engaged in a battle with Meadows, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), and other conservative lawmakers who are demanding documents relating to the Justice Department's Russia probe and accusing Rosenstein of blocking their efforts. According to CNN, their latest demand is an unredacted copy of Rosenstein's memo detailing the scope of Mueller's investigation.

Other legal battles...

--- President Trump has asked a federal court to dismiss a lawsuit claiming that payments made by foreign officials for services at the Trump International Hotel in Washington violate the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution... Adult film star Stormy Daniels has filed a defamation suit against President Trump for calling a forensic sketch of the man who allegedly threatened her "a total con job"...

The president's mindset...

--- President Trump is swarmed by a number of investigations and court battles. But instead of responding to revelations about Mueller's list of questions and subpoena threat with renewed seriousness (as his lawyers likely advise), Trump "is likely to become more aggressive as he feels more threatened," Axios reports.

"For the average human, nothing scares them more than legal issues. He. Does. Not. Care. His whole adult life has been spent in litigation. He's not afraid of high-stakes legal stuff. … He’s just going to start swinging and knock people’s heads off," a source close to the president told Axios. Another source said: "His instinct is always to be on the offensive. [The leak about the extent of Mueller's probe] was a wake-up call to the president that will embolden him, in a lot of ways. As he sees this becoming more serious, his instinct is to punch back 10 times harder."

--- Tweet from President Trump this morning: "There was no Collusion (it is a Hoax) and there is no Obstruction of Justice (that is a setup & trap). What there is is Negotiations going on with North Korea over Nuclear War, Negotiations going on with China over Trade Deficits, Negotiations on NAFTA, and much more. Witch Hunt!"


EPA: Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, now embroiled in 11 federal investigations over his ethical practices, continues to face controversy. On Tuesday, it was reported that a lobbyist helped arrange his $100,000 trip to Morocco last year and that two top of his top EPA aides had resigned amid scrutiny of their roles at the agency.

VA: After the failed nomination of presidential physician Ronny Jackson, the White House is facing a chaotic process to select its next nominee to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs. "It's a total mess," a source told CNN.

The doctor is in: Dr. Harold Bornstein, the president's longtime personal physician, told NBC News on Tuesday that in February 2017, then-White House aide Keith Schiller, a top lawyer at the Trump Organization, and another man showed up at his office without notice and seized President Trump's medical records. Bornstein described the incident as a "raid" that left him feeling "raped, frightened, and sad."

Although questions have been raised about the legality of such a seizure, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders disputed the characterization of the incident as a "raid" on Tuesday, saying that "those records were being transferred over to the White House Medical Unit, as requested." Their taking possession of Trump's medical records was following "standard operating procedure for a new president," she said.

Bornstein also told CNN on Tuesday that a 2015 letter signed by Bornstein that said Trump would be "the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency" was dictated entirely by Trump himself, and revealed to the New York Times that he had been excised from the Trump orbit after telling the newspaper last year about President Trump's use of a hair growth drug.

The Midterms

Interesting quote...

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) told the Boston Globe that she will seek to continue to lead the Democratic caucus if her party wins back the House majority this November. "We will win. I will run for speaker. I feel confident about it. And my members do, too,” she said.

"It’s important that it not be five white guys at the table, no offense," Pelosi said, referring to the top four leaders and Congress and the president. "I have no intention of walking away from that table."

Pelosi's comments come amid growing pressure from the Democratic rank-and-file for her to step aside in favor of a younger leader.

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The President's schedule

At 11:05am, President Trump participates in the swearing-in ceremony of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the State Department headquarters.

At 12:15pm, President Trump has lunch with Vice President Mike Pence and Health and Human Services Secretary Alexander Azar in the Private Dining Room of the White House.

At 4:30pm, President Trump gives remarks at the National Teacher of the Year reception in the East Room.

Today in Congress

Both houses of Congress are on recess.

*All times Eastern