Wake Up To Politics - November 27, 2017
I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Monday, November 27, 2017. 344 days until Election Day 2018. 1,072 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at email@example.com. Tell your friends to sign up to receive the newsletter in their inbox at wakeuptopolitics.com/subscribe!
An Agency with Two Acting Directors: English, Mulvaney Vie for Control of the CFPB
Former Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) director Richard Cordray's resignation on Friday has sparked a battle for control of the agency between his appointed successor and President Donald Trump's pick for the position. In his final act on office, Cordray appointed his chief of staff, Leandra English, to the vacant post of deputy director -- an attempt to install her as acting director of the agency until a permanent successor can be named. The Dodd-Frank Act of 2010, which created the CFPB, states that the agency's director can appoint a deputy who will take his place if he is "absent or unavailable," although it does not clarify if that means resignation.
President Trump fought back against the appointment, citing the Federal Vacancies Reform Act (FVRA) of 1998, to name his own acting director: Office Management and Budget (OMB) director Mick Mulvaney. The White House released a legal opinion on Saturday by Assistant Attorney General Steven Engel pointing out that the FVRA gives the President authority to name executive officers to serve in acting capacities, and claiming that when there is contradicting between that law and the statute creating an agency, the President's choice automatically takes precedence.
With uncertainty as to who walks into CFPB headquarters in control today, English filed a lawsuit Sunday night in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia calling Trump's appointment of Mulvaney "unlawful" and seeking a temporary restraining to block the OMB director from taking charge of the customer protection agency. According to Reuters, CFPB General Counsel Mary McLeod, an Obama-era appointee, plans to send a memo to agency staff on Monday siding with the Trump Administration's legal opinion and declaring that Mulvaney is in charge of the CFPB. Administration officials told CNN that they expect Mulvaney to take control of the agency today, with English serving as his deputy.
#MeToo Comes to Washington: The Latest
CONYERS: Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) stepped down as ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee on Sunday amid an ethics probe into sexual harassment allegations made by multiple former staffers. "After careful consideration and in light of the attention drawn by recent allegations made against me, I have notified the Democratic Leader of my request to step aside as Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee during the investigation of these matters," Conyers said in a statement.
"I deny these allegations," he added, noting that many of them first emerged due to payments by "partisan alt-right blogger" Mike Cernovich, although they were later confirmed by BuzzFeed and followed by allegations reported in the Washington Post and other sources.
"Zero tolerance means consequences," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said after Conyers' announcement. "I have asked for an ethics investigation, and as that investigation continues, Congressman Conyers has agreed to step aside as Ranking Member." The announcement came just hours after Pelosi came under fire for a "Meet the Press" interview in which she seemed to defend Conyers, calling him an "icon" who has "done a great deal to protect women."
Conyers, who is also Dean of the House (the longest-serving member of the body currently in office), has served in the House since 1965 and was one of the founders of the Congressional Black Caucus. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) will take his place as the top Democrat on the powerful Judiciary panel.
FRANKEN: Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) broke eight days of silence on Sunday, granting interviews to three local outlets -- his first since being accused of groping at least four women, including radio broadcaster Leeann Tweeden. Franken told the Minnesota Star Tribune that he is "looking forward to getting back to work" today, adding: "I've let a lot of people down and I'm hoping I can make it up to them and gradually regain their trust." The senator told Minnesota Public Radio that he "would never intentionally" grope anyone, but told WCCO that "I can't say that hasn't happened," when pressed on allegations that he had groped women's buttocks while taking photographs with them.
“I understand I am going to have to do everything I can going forward to be enormously sensitive," he added. "I apologize to these women." When asked if more allegations will emerge, Franken responded: "I don't know. I can't say."
He had previously released statements apologizing to Tweeden and the other women and joining calls for a Senate Ethics Committee investigation into his own behavior.
MOORE: Alabama Republican Senate nominee Roy Moore has lost the support of almost the entire GOP leadership in Washington in light of allegations by multiple women that he sexually pursued them while they were teenagers. But President Trump has yet to pull his endorsement. Without naming Moore, Trump doubled down on his support for the candidate by targeting his Democratic opponent Doug Jones in a pair of Sunday tweets.
"The last thing we need in Alabama and the U.S. Senate is a Schumer/Pelosi puppet who is WEAK on Crime, WEAK on the Border, Bad for our Military and our great Vets, Bad for our 2nd Amendment, AND WANTS TO RAISES TAXES TO THE SKY," Trump tweeted. "Jones would be a disaster!"
--- Related: "Why Trump Stands by Roy Moore, Even as It Fractures His Party," via the NYT
Inside the West Wing
Kushner: Two profiles on presidential son-in-law and White House senior advisor Jared Kushner dropped on Sunday, both detailing his “shrinking” portfolio under chief of staff John Kelly:
New York Times: "Jared Kushner's Vast Duties, and Visibility in White House, Shrink"
Washington Post: "The shrinking profile of Jared Kushner"
--- As his White House role diminishes, questions are growing over Kushner's contacts with Russia. Reminder: today is the deadline for Kushner to submit missing records to the Senate Judiciary Committee, including emails about WikiLeaks.
Hicks: A CNN piece on Sunday describes the meteoric rise of Hope Hicks, from modeling to PR to her current perch as White House communications director, at President Trump's side since the beginning of his campaign.
Flynn: Something you might have missed while sitting down for Thanksgiving dinner... the New York Times and other outlets reported that Trump's former national security advisor Michael Flynn's lawyers have ceased communication with the White House legal team, a potential sign of cooperation with special counsel Robert Mueller.
The President's Schedule
At 12:30pm, President Donald Trump has lunch with Vice President Mike Pence and members of the Senate Finance Committee to discuss tax cuts, ahead of a big week for the GOP's attempts to reform the tax code.
At 2:00pm, the President hosts an event honoring the Native American code talkers, who played a role in both World Wars.
At 2:30pm, he meets with Defense Secretary James Mattis.
Also today: White House press secretary Sarah Sanders will hold the daily press briefing at 2:00pm.
Today in Congress
The Senate: The upper chamber convenes at 4:00pm today. Following leader remarks, the Senate will resume consideration of the nomination of Dabney Langhorne Freidrich to be a U.S. District Judge for the District of Columbia. At 5:30pm, the chamber will hold a confirmation vote on Freidrich, followed by a cloture vote on the nomination of Gregory Katsas to be a U.S. Circuit Judge for the District of Columbia Circuit.
Friedrich's career has involved stints in the White House Counsel's office under President George W. Bush, as an aide to Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), and as an Assistant U.S. Attorney and in other posts at the Justice Department. She was appointed by to be a member of the U.S. Sentencing Commission, serving from 2006 to 2016. Friedrich was nominated for the district judgeship in May; her nomination was advanced earlier this month in a 93-4 vote.
Katsas, a former clerk for Justice Clarence Thomas, official in the George W. Bush Justice Department, and partner at D.C. law firm Jones Day, has served as Deputy White House Counsel since the beginning of the Trump Administration. Katsas has faced scrutiny over his role in the White House's response to the Russia probe, travel ban, Obamacare, and other issues; his record has also earned opposition from more than 200 civil rights group. Katsas' nomination to the D.C. Circuit (known as the second most important court in the nation, after the Supreme Court, for its role deciding cases reviewing federal agencies) was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee in a party-line vote, 11-9.
These votes are the latest in a recent flurry of judicial confirmations, as the Senate approves President Trump's nominees at a record-breaking pace in a legacy-defining attempt to remake the federal judiciary.
The House: The lower chamber is not expected to hold any votes today.
All times Eastern