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Wake Up To Politics - November 17, 2016

Thursday, November 17, 2016

64 Days until Inauguration DayI'm Gabe Fleisher for Wake Up To Politics, and reporting from WUTP world HQ in my bedroom - Good morning: THIS IS YOUR WAKE UP CALL!!!

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Transition Central

  • President-elect Donald Trump will meet with a number of high-profile officials today, as his transition continues and the clock ticks down to Inauguration Day. Trump will hold his first meeting with a foreign leader since the election, sitting down with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. "The Japan-US alliance is the axis of Japan's diplomacy and security," Abe told reporters on Wednesday. "The alliance becomes alive only when there is trust between us. I would like to build such a trust with Mr. Trump." During the campaign, Trump suggested that U.S. troops should withdraw from Japan and South Korea, and no longer provide protection and security to the two longtime allies.
  • While this is the Presidnet-elect's first face-to-face meeting with a foreign leader, the transition team announced on Wednesday that Trump and Pence had spoken on the phone with 29 world leaders, including the heads of state of Canada, China, Germany, France, Israel, Italy, Mexico, India, Russia, and the United Kingdom, as well as the Secretary-General of the United Nations.
  • According to a conference call with reporters held Wednesday, Trump will meet with the following individuals throughout the day, in addition to Abe: former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Gov. Nikki Haley (R-SC), House Financial Services Committee chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), FedEx CEO Fred Smith; Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL); Oracle Corp. co-CEO Safra Catz; retired Gen. Jack Keane; Adm. Mike Rogers, and former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell.
  • The individuals Trump is meeting with is hugely informative to who he is considering for Cabinet posts. While his transition team undergoes high turnover, the President-elect himself appears to be holding a lot of meetings with potential appointees: "I am the only one who knows who the finalists are!" he tweeted on Tuesday.
  • Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY), the first member of Congress to endorse Trump during the primaries (now serving as a member of the Presidential Transition Executive Committee), told reporters on Wednesday that anyone under consideration for a Cabinet post is coming to Trump Tower: "If you haven’t been called to New York and Trump Tower yet, you aren’t in the running," he said.
  • Among Trump's meetings today, Haley is being considered for Secretary of State; Hensarling for Secretary of the Treasury. In addition, Trump met Tuesday or Wednesday with Rudy Giuliani, reportedly the leading candidate for Secretary of State; Success Academy Charter Schools CEO Eva Moskowitz, a potential Education Secretary; Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), a candidate for Secretary of Health and Human Services; Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), a potential Attorney General; retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, reportedly the leading candidate for National Security Adviser; and Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), a top candidate for Defense Secretary.
  • The Wednesday conference call also revealed that Trump would announce the representatives of his landing teams for the State, Justice, and Defense Departments today. These individuals will meet with current officials in the departments to ensure a smooth transition; due to a large-scale purge of top foreign policy officials from the transition, reportedly by Trump son-in-law Jared Kusher to remove anyone with ties to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (who jailed Kushner's father), these meetings have not yet occurred. Despite Trump's meeting with the Prime Minister of Japan, both the State nor Defense Departments have said that no one from the transition has reached out to them for briefings or other assistance.
  • Also today: Vice President-elect Mike Pence will meet with all four congressional leaders, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and incoming Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY).
  • In addition, Pence will address a meeting of the House Republican Conference, of which he served as chairman from 2009 to 2011 (the Indianan served in the House from 2001 to 2013).
  • Correction In the "Transition Central" section of Wednesday's newsletter, I noted that Donald Trump had reportedly sought security clearance for his son-in-law Jared Kushner, and that his children were receiving Secret Service protection, naming the latter as a potential conflict of interest.
  • The conflict of interest, as Jeff Melanson pointed out, is not the Secret Service protection (which all presidential children receive) but the security clearance. Kushner may sit in on classified briefings, which no presidential relative has ever been allowed to do, and may even attempt to take a White House job, despite nepotism laws that appear to prohibit it. Kushner is publisher of the New York Observer; his wife Ivanka, Trump's daughter, and her brothers will be taking over their father's business interests.

White House Watch

  • President Obama is in Germany today, as his final foreign trip as Commander-in-Chief continues. This is his sixth visit to Germany as president.
  • At 3:25pm, the President will meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the German Chancellor in Berlin. "Among the issues on the agenda will be our common efforts to resolve the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria, the campaign to degrade and destroy ISIL, as well as trans-Atlantic economic relations," according to the White House. The two leaders published a joint opinion piece Thursday in a German magazine, writing about that the U.S.-German :friendship is based on our shared commitment to personal freedom and dignity, which only a vibrant democracy under the rule of law can guarantee." They also focused on a number of points of cooperation between the two nations, including trade, climate change, refugees, NATO, and combating ISIS.
  • At 5pm, Obama and Merkel will hold a joint press conference at the German Chancellor, his third time taking questions from reporters this week.
  • Finally, at 7:05pm, the President and the Chancellor will have dinner together.
  • NOTE: All times local (today: Central European Time, six hours ahead of Eastern Standard).

Capitol Hill News

  • The Senate will begin its meeting today at 9:30am, and will continue consideration of the American Energy and Conservation Act, a "bill to change revenue sharing for states involved in on/offshore energy production," according to C-SPAN's Craig Caplan. At 12pm, the chamber will hold a cloture vote on the measure, which requires 60 "yea" votes to advance.
  • Meanwhile, the House will convene for the day at 9am, moving to voting at around 10:45am. Two bills are on the chamber's schedule today: a bill to prohibit "U.S. financial institutions from financing the sale of commercial passenger aircraft to the Islamic Republic of Iran," according to POPVOX, and the Midnight Rules Relief Act, which would allow Congress to invalidate "en bloc" all rules issued by a President in their last year in office (presidents commonly issue a number of rules at the very end of their term in office, most of which are repealed by Congress one-by-one after he leaves).
  • The House are Senate are currently holding lame-duck sessions, as both parties cement their leadership lineups for the next Congress, which will convene on January 3. Republicans have already elected their leaders in both chambers, with the only changes coming at the bottom rungs of the leadership ladders (Ryan, McConnell and their top deputies will remain in place).
  • However, still reeling from their across-the-board losses last week, Democrats are taking a little longer to settle on the members who will lead the opposition to the Trump Administration. Senate Democrats elected their leaders on Wednesday, officially choosing Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to succeed retiring Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV). Schumer was the No. 3 Democrat in the chamber; the No. 2, Assistant Leader (Minority Whip) Dick Durbin (D-IL), will remain the same, although he will maintain only the Whip duties. The current No. 4, Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), will move up to No. 3, taking the role of Assistant Leader.
  • The Democratic leadership team will also be expanded to 10 members, with Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) taking Murray's current position of Caucus Secretary, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) joining as Policy Committee Vice Chair, and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) taking the newly-created role of Outreach Chair. The twin addition of Manchin and Sanders is interesting, as they represent the two opposite ends of the Democratic spectrum.
  • Sanders, of course, is not even officially a Democrat (he is a self-described Socialist, but formally an Independent who caucuses with the Democrats). The former gave a speech at George Washington University on Wednesday, previewing the progressive opposition against the President-elect. "Mr. Trump, we have a list of everything you said and we are going to hold you to account," Sanders said, listing off promises the President-elect has made such as not cutting Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid; investing heavily in infrastructure; and re-instating Glass-Steagal. Sanders also went after Trump's appointment of former Breitbart chairman Steve Bannon as Senior Counselor to the President. "The President of the United States should not have a racist at his side, unacceptable," Sanders said, later adding: "We will not be involved in the expansion of bigotry, racism, sexism. Mr. Trump, we are not going backwards in terms of bigotry. We are going forward in creating a nondiscriminatory society."
  • Manchin, meanwhile, has toyed with becoming an Independent, or even a Republican, in the past, as he faces re-election in a state that voted for Trump by 42 percentage points. The addition of the West Virginian represents a Democratic attempt to find common ground with Trump: Manchin said Wednesday that he plans to vote for all of Trump's Cabinet nominees out of courtesy, and mentioned a number of issues that he would work with Trump on, a posture few (if any) Senate Democrats are taking.
  • On the House side, Democratic leadership elections have been delayed until November 30: the current lineup is expected to be maintained, although Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) may see a challenger in the likes of Reps. Tim Ryan (D-OH) or Joe Crowley (D-NY), with many young Democrats hoping to see a fresher face succeed Pelosi, 76, and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, 77. Together, Pelosi and Hoyer have ruled the Democratic Caucus for over a dozen years.

Today's Trivia

  • Yesterday's Answer Ronald Reagan is the only President to have served as chairman of the Republican Governors Association, although many presidential hopefuls (including Mitt Romney, Bobby Jindal, Rick Perry, and Chris Christie) have held the role.
  • GREAT JOB: Scott Bennett, Marlee Millman,  Matt Neufeld, Steve Gitnik, Dan Filliol, Steve Boyd, Joe Bookman, Jeremy Cohen, Marjorie Melton, Jordan "JBurg" Burger, and Rick Isserman.
  • Other answers I recieved: George H.W. Bush, who served as chairman of the Republican National Committee, but never served as a governor; George W. Bush, who served as a governor but never as chairman of the RGA; and Gerald Ford, who was also in top GOP positions in Congress but never held statewide office.
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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.