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Wake Up To Politics - November 10, 2017

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Friday, November 10, 2017. 361 days until Election Day 2018. 1,090 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 inbox at wakeuptopolitics.com/subscribe!

Moore Faces Calls to Step Aside After Bombshell Allegations

Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore is facing growing calls to step down from his upcoming special election race after a Washington Post report detailed allegations by four women that Moore "pursued them" when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s. One, Leigh Corfman, described a sexual encounter Moore initiated with her when he was 32 years old. She was 14.

In a statement to The Post, Moore denied the reports. "These allegations are completely false and are a desperate political attack by the National Democrat Party and the Washington Post on this campaign,” Moore said. Later, his campaign chairman released a statement calling the report "garbage" and "the very definition of fake news and intentional defamation," arguing that "after over 40 years of public service, if any of these allegations were true, they would have been made public long before now."

However, many Republican senators — Moore's future colleagues if he wins the December 12 race to fill the Senate vacancy left by now-Attorney General Jeff Sessions — almost immediately began to call on Moore to withdraw if the reports are correct. "If these allegations are true, he must step aside," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said. His comments were echoed by Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX), National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman Cory Gardner (R-CO), Alabama's senior senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), and many others.

While many Republicans included the "if true" qualifier, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) called for Moore's immediate withdrawal. "The allegations against Roy Moore are deeply disturbing and disqualifying," he tweeted. "He should immediately step aside and allow the people of Alabama to elect a candidate they can be proud of."

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders also weighed in early this morning, in a press gaggle aboard Air Force One en route Da Nang, Vietnam. "Like most Americans, the President believes that we cannot allow a mere allegation — in this case, one from many years ago — to destroy a person's life," Sanders said. "However, the President also believes that if these allegations are true, Judge Moore will do the right thing and step aside."

Moore has been a controversial figure long before these allegations. He has served two terms as Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, removed both times by the Alabama Court of the Judiciary. Moore was removed the first time for disobeying an order to remove a 5,280-pound granite monument of the Ten Commandments he had installed at the state Supreme Court building; after winning re-election to the bench in 2012, Moore was removed again earlier this year after directing state judges to ignore the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling legalizing same-sex marriage. Moore gained national attention both times, as well as for comments on homosexuality, Islam, and questioning former President Barack Obama's birthplace.

In September, Moore triumphed over incumbent Sen. Luther Strange — who was appointed to fill Sessions' seat on an interim basis — in the Republican Senate primary runoff, 54.6% to 45.4%. Strange received support from the forces now calling for Moore to step aside, including McConnell, Shelby, and the White House; Moore was backed by Breitbart News executive and former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon and his network of anti-establishment challengers. Moore faces Democrat Doug Jones as the GOP nominee in the election next month.

Strange called the allegations against his former opponent "very, very disturbing" in comments to reporters on Thursday. With Moore seemingly unlikely to withdraw, Strange is being urged by some to wage a write-in campaign for the seat. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who won re-election to the Senate as a write-in candidate in 2010, told reporters that she has spoken with Strange about a potential campaign. Shelby also opened the door to a Strange candidacy, while Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) urged Alabamans to "start thinking about who they'll write in." Strange tweeted Shelby's comments, thanking him but giving no signal as to his intentions.

--- Also on Thursday: The Senate passed a resolution requiring senators, staff members, and interns to participate in mandatory sexual harassment training, amid calls from lawmakers to address the issue on Capitol Hill. The resolution, which was approved by unanimous consent, was introduced by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA).

Senate Unveils Tax Plan Featuring Key Differences From House Version

Senate Republicans released their tax reform legislation on Thursday, unveiling an overhaul of the tax code with significant differences from the version already advancing in the House. According to the New York Times:

  • The Senate bill keeps the current number of tax brackets (seven), maintaining the bottom tax rate of 10% and lowering the top rate to 38.5%. The House bill features four brackets, ranging from 12% to 39.6%.
  • The Senate bill eliminates the state and local tax (SALT) deduction. The House bill keeps the deduction, capping it deduction at $10,000 and changing it to only apply to property taxes (and not sales taxes), after protests from lawmakers representing high-tax states.
  • The Senate bill maintains deductions for mortgage interest and medical expenses, as well as other tax breaks eliminated or limited by the House bill.
  • Like the House bill, the Senate version reduces the corporate tax rate from 35% to 20%, a top priority of President Donald Trump, but the bill released on Thursday would delay the tax cut by one year.
  • The Senate bill does not fully repeal the estate tax, although it does impose limits on it.

Praise of the new bill was not unanimous among GOP senators, with retiring Sens. Jeff Flake (AZ) and Bob Corker (TN) sounding the alarm over the bill's impact on the national debt while Sens. Mike Lee (UT) and Marco Rubio (FL) released a joint statement calling for a higher increase in the child tax credit.

As the Senate GOP released its bill, the House Ways and Means Committee approved the House GOP proposal, in a party-line vote on Thursday. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said in a statement that the full chamber will vote on the legislation next week, adding that "millions of families...small business owners...[and] workers are counting on us, as are the millions of Americans out of work." According to chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT), the Senate Finance Committee will begin markup of the Senate GOP bill on Monday.

After both chambers pass their respective plans, they are expected to form a conference committee to resolve their differences. Congressional leaders hope to have a bill on President Trump's desk by Christmas.

The Russia Investigation

Recent reporting from the Russia probes involving two members of President Donald Trump's inner circle, as well as former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn:

Miller: Investigators for Special Counsel Robert Mueller have interviewed White House senior policy adviser and top speechwriter Stephen Miller, CNN reported on Wednesday. According to the report, one of the topics of the interview was Miller's role in the firing of FBI director James Comey, "as part of the probe into possible obstruction of justice." According to the New York Times, Mueller has obtained a memo, never published due to objections by the White House counsel, drafted by Miller and Trump to explain Comey's ouster.

The network also noted that Miller was also an attendee of the March 2016 meeting where Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopolous, who has been charged as part of the Mueller probe, offered to arrange a meeting between Trump and Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Schiller: Longtime Trump confidant Keith Schiller reportedly testified before the House Intelligence Committee this week that a Russian man offered to send five women to Trump's hotel room during a 2013 trip to Moscow. The revelation was first reported by CNN and later confirmed by a number of other outlets. Schiller testified that he interpreted the offer to be a joke, and laughed it off with Trump later after rejecting it. Schiller served as head of security at the Trump Organization and Trump campaign, and served as Director of Oval Office Operations at the White House until September.

Lawmakers questioned Schiller on the 2013 trip due to its role in salacious and unverified allegations made in the well-known dossier on Trump compiled by a former British intelligence agent and financed by Democrats during the 2016 campaign. In a statement responding to the reports, Schiller's attorney called "the versions of Mr. Schiller’s testimony being leaked to the press...blatantly false and misleading. "

Flynn: According to a Wall Street Journal report this morning, Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating former National Security Advisor Flynn and his son, Michael Flynn Jr., for their involvement in an alleged plan "to forcibly remove a Muslim cleric living in the U.S. and deliver him to Turkey" in return for as much as $15 million. NBC reported earlier this week that Mueller "has enough evidence to bring charges" in the investigation of Flynn's past lobbying work.

Goodlatte to Retire After Thirteen House Terms

Another senior House Republican announced plans to retire on Thursday: House Judiciary Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA).

Goodlatte's announcement comes one week after announcements by two other House committee chairs that they also will not seek re-election next year: Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) of Financial Services and Lamar Smith (R-TX) of Science, Space, and Technology. In all, 29 House Republicans have announced plans to either seek other office or retire, including many veteran lawmakers.

“With my time as Chairman of the Judiciary Committee ending in December 2018, this is a natural stepping-off point and an opportunity to begin a new chapter of my career and spend more time with my family, particularly my granddaughters,” Goodlatte said in a statement. He has served in the House for 13 terms, since 1993, and has held the powerful Judiciary gavel since 2013.

The 65-year-old leaves behind a safe Republican district, which voted for President Donald Trump in 2016 by 24 percentage points.

The President's Day

President Donald Trump has entered the penultimate leg of his 12-day, five-nation Asia tour, a visit to Vietnam. Trump is currently in Da Nang to participate in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders’ Meeting. Hours ago, Trump addressed the APEC CEO Summit, focusing on his "American First" foreign policy.

"We are not going to let the United States be taken advantage of anymore," Trump said. "I am always going to put America first, the same way I expect all of you in this room to put your countries first."  

The President's next stop will be in Hanoi, where he is scheduled to meet with President Tran Dai Quang and other Vietnamese officials.

Speculation has been rampant that Trump would meet with Russian president Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the APEC summit; White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said this morning that no formal sit-down is scheduled, while it is "certainly possible and likely" that they may "bump into each other and say hello."

Today in Congress

Neither house of Congress is in session today.