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Wake Up To Politics - November 29, 2017

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Wednesday, November 29, 2017. 342 days until Election Day 2018. 1,070 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!

Breaking this morning... NBC has fired Matt Lauer, the longtime host of the "Today" show, after a complaint about "inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace."

Senate Panel Advances Tax Reform Legislation

The Senate Budget Committee advanced the GOP tax reform plan in a party-line vote on Tuesday, a key victory for Republican leaders who had been worried about the future of the legislation. The bill was approved by the panel with "yea" votes from Sens. Ron Johnson (R-WI) and Bob Corker (R-TN), who had both previously wavered.

Johnson said he remains concerned about language in the bill favoring large corporation over smaller "pass-through" businesses remain, but voted to advance the legislation to "make sure this process moves forward," according to the Washington Post. Johnson's support for the bill came after "a back-and-forth" with President Trump during his appearance at the Senate Republicans Conference's weekly launch on Tuesday, Politico reported.

Corker, meanwhile, had threatened to vote against the bill due to concerns about its impact on the deficit. Politico reports that Corker has struck a deal with Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) to include a "trigger" to "reverse tax cuts if economic growth fell short of projections in years to come," with details to be released on Thursday.

The Senate plan now heads to the floor, with the chamber set to vote today to begin debate on the legislation. Although Tuesday's committee vote gives Republican leaders a burst of much-needed momentum, uncertainty lingers over whether the bill will be able to pass the full Senate in a final vote on passage expected later this week. "Think of sitting there with a Rubik's Cube trying to get to 50 [votes]," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told reporters on Tuesday.

Corker's "trigger" provision will likely assuage him and the other "deficit hawks," including Sens. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and James Lankford (R-OK). Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), another leading swing vote, is "seeking several provisions before she is willing to endorse the tax bill," according to Politico, including passage of the bipartisan Alexander-Murray bill to stabilize health insurance markets. Collins said on Tuesday that in a separate meeting on Capitol Hill, President Trump backed the deal. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has also refused to publicly back the tax reform bill, telling the New York Times this week that "a lot of things" in the legislation concern him, including the lack of "regular order" in how the bill has been debated.

GOP leaders can only afford to lose two Senate Republicans and still gain the 50 votes necessary for passage of the bill.

Shutdown Negotiations Fall Apart

All four top congressional leaders were supposed to be at the White House on Tuesday, negotiating on a potential deal to keep the government open past a December 8 deadline. Instead, President Trump was flanked by two empty chairs in his meeting with House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). The two Democratic leaders, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) in the House and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) in the Senate, refused to show up.

Pelosi and Schumer's boycott of the meeting came after Trump tweeted that he was not optimistic about striking an agreement with them. “Meeting with ‘Chuck and Nancy’ today about keeping government open and working,” he said, using the moniker he has previously attached to the two Democrats. “Problem is they want illegal immigrants flooding into our Country unchecked, are weak on Crime and want to substantially RAISE Taxes. I don’t see a deal!”

The duo responded in a joint statement announcing their plans to skip the White House summit. "Given that the President doesn't see a deal between Democrats and the White House, we believe the best path forward is to continue negotiating with our Republican counterparts in Congress instead," they said.

At the White House, the President declared that he was "not really that surprised" about their absence, while Speaker Ryan called it "very regrettable that our Democratic colleagues and leadership chose not to participate." White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said their decision was "disappointing" and that Trump's invitation stands if the Democratic leaders are willing to "put aside their pettiness, stop the political grandstanding, show up and get to work." Two empty chairs were set next to the President to highlight the missing Democrats.

If no funding deal is struck in the next nine days, the government will shut down. In that event, "I would absolutely blame the Democrats," Trump said on Tuesday. Some Democrats are demanding that the deal include a provision granting legal status to undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States while they were minors; their votes may be needed if lawmakers in the Republican majority disagree with the new funding levels, giving them leverage in the negotiations. If the negotiations ever begin, that is.

Conyers Under Pressure to Resign

Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), the longest-serving sitting member of the House, faces increased pressure to resign after a fourth former female staffer came forward Tuesday to allege that he harassed her. According to CNN, Conyers is being urged to resign by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and many members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), which he co-founded. CBC chairman Cedric Richmond (D-LA) said in a statement on Tuesday that he met with Conyers and "had a very candid conversation about the seriousness of the allegations against him," but told reporters that resignation was "a personal decision" and said he trusted Conyers to make the right one.

Conyers, who denies the allegations of sexual harassment, is already facing an ethics investigation into his behavior and announced on Sunday that he is stepping down as ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee during the probe. Conyers missed a series of House votes on Tuesday; a Twitter user spotted him on a flight heading home to Detroit.

Inside Trump's Head

"From ‘Access Hollywood’ to Russia, Trump seeks to paint the rosiest picture," Washington Post: "President Trump has expressed certainty that the special-counsel probe into his campaign’s possible collusion with Russia will be finished by the end of the year, complete with an exoneration from Robert S. Mueller III, according to several friends who have spoken with him in recent days."

"Trump has dismissed his historically low approval ratings as 'fake' and boasted about what he calls the unprecedented achievements of his presidency, even while chatting behind the scenes, saying no president since Harry Truman has accomplished as much at this point."

"Trump also has occasionally questioned whether the “Access Hollywood” video of him crowing about assaulting women was doctored or inauthentic, asking confidants whether they think the sexual braggart on tape sounds like him, according to two people who have heard him make the comments"

..."Trump has occasionally told senior advisers that the 'Access Hollywood' tape could be fabricated or may not be real, according to two people who have heard him make the comments. At various moments — including during huddles with his aides at Trump Tower after he won the election and before taking office — Trump has sought to distance himself from the tape."

"Trump has asked others whether they think the voice sounds like him, suggesting that it does not, and has wondered aloud whether perhaps the tape was doctored or edited in an unfair way to villainize him."

"Trump Once Said the 'Access Hollywood' Tape Was Real. Now He's Not Sure," New York Times: ..."Most of Mr. Trump’s aides ignored his changing story [about the 'Access Hollywood' tape]. But in January, shortly before his inauguration, Mr. Trump told a Republican senator that he wanted to investigate the recording that had him boasting about grabbing women’s genitals."

" 'We don’t think that was my voice,' Mr. Trump told the senator, according to a person familiar with the conversation. Since then, Mr. Trump has continued to suggest that the tape that nearly upended his campaign was not actually him, according to three people close to the president."

..."In recent months, they say, Mr. Trump has used closed-door conversations to question the authenticity of President Barack Obama’s birth certificate. He has also repeatedly claimed that he lost the popular vote last year because of widespread voter fraud, according to advisers and lawmakers."

"One senator who listened as the president revived his doubts about Mr. Obama’s birth certificate chuckled on Tuesday as he recalled the conversation. The president, he said, has had a hard time letting go of his claim that Mr. Obama was not born in the United States. The senator asked not to be named to discuss private conversations."

"Mr. Trump’s journeys into the realm of manufactured facts have been frequent enough that his own staff has sought to nudge friendly lawmakers to ask questions of Mr. Trump in meetings that will steer him toward safer terrain."

..." 'It’s dangerous to democracy; you’ve got to have shared facts,' Senator Jeff Flake, Republican of Arizona, said in an interview on Tuesday. 'And on so many of these, there’s empirical evidence that says no: You didn’t win the popular vote, there weren’t more people at your inauguration than ever, that was your voice on that tape, you admitted it before.' "

..."Many Republican lawmakers — not wanting to undermine the party’s fragile negotiations over a much-sought tax overhaul — declined to talk on the record about Mr. Trump’s pattern of plunging into what one senator called 'his rabbit holes.' "

..."One Republican lawmaker, who asked not to be identified, said that Mr. Trump’s false statements had become familiar to people over time. The president continues to boast of winning districts that he did not in fact win, the lawmaker said, and of receiving 52 percent of the women’s vote, even though exit polls show that 42 percent of women supported him."

Meanwhile, on Twitter... The President has spent the morning tweeting about "Fox and Friends," retweeting anti-Muslim videos from a right-wing British account, continuing his feud with CNN, praising consumer confidence, and commenting on Matt Lauer's termination.

The Rundown

North Korea: Per CNN, "North Korea claims to have successfully tested a new type of intercontinental ballistic missile, topped with a 'super-large heavy warhead,' which is capable of striking the US mainland." President Trump was briefed on the situation Tuesday, and spoke to the leaders of Japan and South Korea. "We will take care of it," Trump told reporters. The test is Pyongyang's first launch since September.

CFPB showdown: The Trump Administration scored a legal victory on Tuesday, as a federal judge denied the request by Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) deputy director Leandra English to block Trump's appointment of budget director Mick Mulvaney to be the CFPB's acting director. English was tapped to be acting director by the agency's departing head Richard Cordray, and has claimed the title is rightfully hers even as Mulvaney has moved to exert control over the agency.

Russia probe: Michael Flynn used his brief White House tenure to promote a Middle East nuclear project on behalf of a company he had formerly been paid by, according to the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post. The revelation is another legal issue for Flynn, whose personal business dealings are being investigated by special counsel Robert Mueller. A number of outlets reported last week that Flynn's lawyers had ceased communication with the White House legal time, a sign of his cooperation with the special counsel; ABC reports that Flynn's lawyer met Monday with Mueller's team, "the latest indication that both sides are discussing a possible plea deal."

The President's Schedule

At 11am, President Donald Trump receives the daily intelligence briefing. At 12:30pm, he heads to St. Louis, Missouri, where he will deliver remarks on tax reform at the St. Charles Convention Center at 3:30pm. At 4:40pm, the President departs St. Louis, returning to the White House at 6:45pm.

--- I will be at the convention center today as the President delivers his speech, my first time credentialed to cover an address by President Trump. Look in your inbox tomorrow for a full report...

All times Eastern