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Wake Up To Politics - November 27, 2018

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Tuesday, November 27, 2018. 433 days until the 2020 Iowa caucuses. 707 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at gabe@wakeuptopolitics.com.

Election Day in Mississippi: Racial tensions dominate Senate runoff

Voters head to the polls today in Mississippi's special Senate runoff election, the final contest of the 2018 midterms. Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, who has held the seat on an interim basis since April, faces Democrat Mike Espy, a former congressman who served as Secretary of Agriculture under Bill Clinton.

Race has emerged as the key issue in the election, after Hyde-Smith was captured on video earlier this month saying she would join one of her supporters at a "public hanging." At a debate last week, Hyde-Smith apologized to "anyone that was offended" by the remarks, saying her words had been "twisted." Espy responded: "No one twisted your comments. It came out of your mouth. I don't know what's in your heart, but we all know what came out of your mouth."

Since the "public hanging" comments, Hyde-Smith has suffered from additional reports that she joked about encouraging voter suppression, attended a "segregation academy" and sent her daughter to one, took a photo in a Confederate soldier's hat at a museum dedicated to Jefferson Davis, and had been involved in other episodes embracing Confederate history, including co-sponsoring a resolution praising a Confederate soldier's effort to "defend his homeland."

According to Politico, this "swirl of controversy" has resulted in fears within the Republican Party, who are confident Hyde-Smith will put out a victory but "on edge" after their loss in the Senate special election in neighboring Alabama last year. Per the Washington Post, Democrats have sought to capitalize off of the racial tensions in the contest by launching "an extraordinary effort to energize African-American voters" in the state. If elected, Espy would become the first black senator from Mississippi since Reconstruction.

President Donald Trump was dispatched to aid Hyde-Smith in the final stages of the race on Monday, headlining two rallies in Mississippi on her behalf. "Don't take any chances," he told supporters at the second rally. "You have to vote." He also defended Hyde-Smith's "public hanging" comment, saying she "misspoke." Trump won the deeply conservative Mississippi by 19 percentage points in the 2016 election.

In the November 6 nonpartisan "jungle primary," Hyde-Smith garnered 41.5% of the vote to Espy's 40.6%; another prominent Republican candidate, Chris McDaniel, received 16.5%, splitting the GOP vote. Only the top two candidates from the November 6 primary, Hyde-Smith and Espy, advanced to today's runoff election. Polls close in Missippi at 8pm Eastern Time tonight.

The Russia investigation

Mueller accuses Manafort of lying, breaching plea agreement: Prosecutors working for special counsel Robert Mueller on Monday accused former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort of violating his plea agreement by repeatedly lying to investigators.

After being convicted by a federal jury in Virginia on eight felony counts in August, Manafort entered into a plea deal with Mueller's prosecutors in September to avoid a trial in Washington, D.C. over seven additional charges. Manafort pleaded guilty to two charges (conspiracy to defraud the United States and witness tampering) and agreed to tell the government "fully and truthfully" about "his participating in and knowledge of all criminal activities." In a Monday court filing, Mueller's office said that the ex-Trump campaign chief "committed federal crimes by lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Special Counsel's Office on a variety of subject matters" after signing the plea agreement.

The prosecutors did not elaborate on the areas where Manafort had been untruthful, but promised to provide more details at a later date. Manafort's defense team, meanwhile, said that "he believes he has provided truthful information" and attempted to "live up to his cooperation obligations."

After the filing of Monday's report, both the defense and the prosecution are now ready to move ahead with sentencing in the D.C. case against Manafort. (Sentencing in the Virginia case is already set for February 8.) If Manafort is found guilty of lying after signing the plea agreement, he would no longer receive an abridged sentence for "acceptance of responsibility." As a result, he could be facing a lifetime in prison.
What it means for the Russia investigation: While this development won't be welcomed by Paul Manafort, it also could hurt special counsel Mueller's team, who "may have lost its potentially most valuable witness in Manafort," as the Washington Post reports. Manafort is connected to many of the key threads in the investigation, such as the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting (which he attended), but "even if he has provided information that helps them develop criminal cases...[Mueller's prosecutors] could hardly call him to testify" after accusing him of lying on Monday, tarnishing his credibility as a witness, as the New York Times reports.

Mueller's latest move also further raises the specter of a presidential pardon for Manafort, which has been whispered about since he was first indicted in October 2017.

Corsi claims to reject plea deal: Conservative author Jerome Corsi, an associate of longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone, said Monday that he had been offered a plea deal by special counsel Robert Mueller, but he had rejected it. Corsi is being probed by the special counsel as part of his investigation into whether Stone had advance knowledge of WikiLeaks' release of Democratic emails hacked by Russia in the 2016 campaign; Corsi has been identified as possibly being Stone's intermediary with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

Corsi says he was offered a plea deal on one count of perjury, but he insists that any gaps in his testimony to the special counsel were due to forgetfulness, and he refuses to sign an agreement saying he lied. "They can put me in prison the rest of my life," Corsi told CNN. "I am not going to sign a lie." Asked what would happen now that he had rejected the plea deal, Corsi responded: "I don't know."
It remains to be seen whether Corsi, the former Washington bureau chief of the conspiracy theorist outlet InfoWars, is being honest about his dealings with Mueller. In an email to Wake Up To Politics on Monday, special counsel spokesperson Peter Carr declined to comment on Corsi's claim.

Trump vs. Mueller: President Trump has upped his attacks on special counsel Mueller, criticizing him in a three-part Twitter series this morning and in two tweets on Monday morning. "The Fake News Media builds Bob Mueller up as a Saint, when in actuality he is the exact opposite," Trump tweeted this morning, adding that Mueller is doing "TREMENDOUS damage to our Criminal Justice System" by "only looking at one side and not the other." In the tweets this morning, the president also referred to Mueller as "a conflicted prosecutor gone rogue," to his prosecutors as a "terrible Gang of Angry Democrats," and to the investigation as a "Phony Witch Hunt."

2018 Central

Wave watch: After Rep. Mia Love (R-UT) conceded on Monday (in a speech that was scathingly critical of President Trump) and indicted Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY) claimed victory, just one House race remains to be called. The Associated Press and other news outlets have retracted their call in California's 21st congressional district, where Rep. David Valadao (R-CA) had initially been declared the winner, although he has since fallen behind Democrat T.J. Cox in the vote count. Cox took the lead for the first time on Monday, pulling ahead by 0.4%, or 436 votes.

Democrats are currently slated to hold 234 House seats in the next Congress, to Republicans' 200. A Democratic victory in California's 21st would bring the number of GOP-held seats flipped this cycle to 40. According to NBC News, Democrats currently hold an 8.8 million vote lead over Republicans in the nationwide House total, exceeding the previous record for a midterm cycle.

Quote of the Day

"I don't believe it... Right now, we're at the cleanest we've ever been, and that's very important to me." — President Trump speaking to reporters on Monday, rejecting a report on climate charge published Friday by the federal government. The report, which involved 13 government agencies and 300+ climate scientists, presented a stark warning on the consequences of climate change, including a loss of 10% of the United States' GDP by the end of the century.

Out today: "Trump's Enemies"

Via the Washington Post:

"Two of the president’s longest-serving advisers allege in a new book that scores of officials inside the White House, Congress, the Justice Department and intelligence agencies are 'embedded enemies of President Trump' working to stymie his agenda and delegitimize his presidency.

"The authors, Corey R. Lewandowski and David N. Bossie, are both Republican operatives who do not work in the administration but are close to Trump and fashion themselves as his outside protectors. They portray the president as victim to disloyalty on his staff and 'swamp creatures' intent on extinguishing his political movement.

"Their book, 'Trump’s Enemies: How the Deep State Is Undermining the Presidency,' which is being released Tuesday and was obtained in advance by The Washington Post, paints a dark and at times conspiratorial portrait of Trump’s Washington. The authors identify by name a number of Trump appointees who they claim have formed a 'resistance' inside the government during the first two years of Trump’s presidency."

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White House schedule

POTUS: At 12:45pm, President Trump has lunch with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary James Mattis, both of whom are scheduled to brief the Senate on Wednesday about the Trump administration's response to the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

At 2:30pm, Trump meets with House Republican leadership. According to Politico, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA), and incoming GOP Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney (R-WY) will attend the meeting, which will likely focus on the nearing December 7 funding deadline. Trump has demanded $5 billion be allocated for the construction of his proposed border wall in the spending bill, threatening to stage a partial government shutdown if he does not receive the funding.

At3:45pm, the president and First Lady participate in a White House Christmas reception. At 7:30pm, the president and First Lady participate in the U.S. Secret Service Christmas reception.

VP: At 12:45pm, Vice President Mike Pence participates in the weekly Senate Republican policy lunch. At 2:30pm, he participates in the president's meetwithwtih House GOP leadership.

Briefing schedule: White House press secretary Sarah Sanders will hold a briefing at 1pm today, her first since October 29.

Congress schedule

Senate: The Senate convenes at 10am. At 12:15pm, the chamber is scheduled to hold two roll call votes: a confirmation vote on the nomination of Stephen Vaden to be General Counsel of the Department of Agriculture, and a cloture vote on the nomination of Karen Kelley to be Deputy Secretary of Commerce.

House: The House convenes at 12pm. The chamber is set to consider eight pieces of legislation.

Supreme Court schedule

The Supreme Court hears oral arguments in two cases today: Nutraceutical Corp v. Lambert and Carpenter v. Murphy.

*All times Eastern