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Wake Up To Politics - November 3, 2017

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Friday, November 3, 2017. 4 days until Election Day 2017. 368 days until Election Day 2018. 1,096 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!

Some exciting personal news... As some of you may know, I was interviewed a few months ago for "CBS Sunday Morning." Barring any breaking news, the segment will likely air this Sunday. I can't be sure, because the lineup of the show is still fluid, but I wanted to let all of my readers know it was a possibility in case you want to tune in. The show airs on CBS News from 9 am to 10:30 am Eastern Time on Sunday.

As he departs on pivotal Asia trip, Trump seems focused on anything else

Donald Trump departs today for the longest foreign trip of his Presidency thus far, a 12-day, five-nation tour of Asia. The trip will take him to Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam, and the Philippines, and include two international summits: the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders’ Meeting and the U.S.-Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit.

According to the White House, "the President’s travel will underscore his commitment to longstanding United States alliances and partnerships, and reaffirm United States leadership in promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific region." The main focus of the trip will be North Korea, as Trump aims to "increase international support for efforts to deprive North Korea of resources as leverage to coerce it to give up nuclear weapons," according to Reuters.

According to NBC, National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster "told reporters [at a Thursday briefing on ] the president will seek to strengthen international resolve to denuclearize North Korea; promote a free and open Indo-Pacific region; and advance American prosperity through fair trade and economic practices." The trip is also a key opportunity to build upon and highlight relationships with foreign leaders he has hosted in the United States already, including China's Xi Jinping and Japan's Shinzo Abe.

Trump has spent days preparing for the trip, attending "a series of rapid-fire briefing sessions" that the "White House hopes will help avoid the kind of diplomatic snafus that have dogged his presidency," according to Politico. However, some briefings were "delayed" or "cut short" this week as the President remained in the White House residence some mornings "agonizing over developments in the Russia investigation," CNN reported. In addition, according to the network, "the Asia trip has stirred anxiety among some aides in the White House, largely because developments in the Russia investigation have created a distraction during a critical time of preparation." Trump's Russia troubles will likely follow him to Asia, complicating his diplomatic attempts and remaining on his mind.

The President's focus seems to be squarely in domestic affairs, even as he prepares to depart for an important trip to another continent; for proof, one needs to look no further than Trump's Twitter feed. The President has tweeted nearly two-dozen times in the last 24 hours, just once about his upcoming tour of Asia. Here's what Trump is focused on instead:

The 2016 election: Trump has seized on an excerpt of former Democratic National Committee (DNC) interim chair Donna Brazile's forthcoming book in which she describes Hillary Clinton's "secret takeover of the DNC." The excerpt has returned the divisions of the Democratic Party to the public eye, with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) telling CNN on Thursday that she believes the 2016 Democratic primary campaign was "rigged" in Clinton's favor.

The President responded in a series of tweets last night and this morning, alleging that "Crooked Hillary" engaged in "collusion and dishonesty" while violating "Campaign Finance Laws and Money Laundering" to "illegally" steal the primary from "Crazy Bernie." Trump also invoked his moniker for Warren, "Pocahontas," to say that Clinton "rigged the Primaries." Later, Trump called on his Justice Department to "do what is right and proper" and investigate his onetime political rival, for her "collusion" with the DNC, as well as "the deleted E-mails, Uranium, Podesta, [and] the Server." He added, "The American public deserve it!"

His Twitter account: President Trump's Twitter account disappeared for 11 minutes on Thursday night. Twitter later revealed that a customer support employee deactivated the account on employee's last day at the company. "My Twitter account was taken down for 11 minutes by a rogue employee," the President tweeted this morning. "I guess the word must finally be getting out-and having an impact."

Terrorism: Trump also responded this morning to ISIS' claim of responsibility for the New York City terrorist attack. "ISIS just claimed the Degenerate Animal who killed, and so badly wounded, the wonderful people on the West Side, was "their soldier," he said, continuing in another tweet: "Based on that, the Military has hit ISIS "much harder" over the last two days. They will pay a big price for every attack on us!"

The Rundown

Republican tax plan: House Republican leaders unveiled their long-awaited $1.5 trillion tax plan on Thursday, a sweeping overhaul of the U.S. tax code. Here are the details, via the New York Times:

"The bill is heavily weighted toward business, which would receive about $1 trillion in net cuts, or two-thirds of the total, according to calculations by the Joint Committee on Taxation. At its center is a proposal to permanently cut the corporate tax rate to 20 percent from 35 percent — a change that is estimated to reduce federal revenues by $1.5 trillion over the next decade alone.

"For individuals, the plan establishes three tax brackets — 12, 25 and 35 percent — instead of the seven that exist now and maintains a top rate of 39.6 percent for millionaires. The bill would also eliminate the alternative minimum tax, which is expected to hit 4.5 million families in 2017, and would roughly double the standard deduction for middle-class families. It would not, as many had feared, make any changes to the pretax treatment of 401(k) plans."

Republicans hope to begin consideration of the bill next week, aiming to have it on President Trump's desk by Christmas.

House GOP retirement: House Science Committee chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) announced plans to step down at the end of his current term on Thursday, becoming the latest in a string of senior House Republicans who are retiring from Congress. Smith has represented served in the House since 1987, and has previously chaired the House Ethics Committee and House Judiciary Committee. "For several reasons, this seems like a good time to pass on the privilege of representing the 21st District to someone else," Smith said in a letter to constituents. "I have one new grandchild and a second arriving soon!! And I hope to find other ways to stay involved in politics."

Earlier this week, House Financial Services Committee chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) also announced he wouldn't run for another term, joining other congressional Republican retirees including Reps. Pat Tiberi (OH), Dave Reichert (WA), Dave Trott (MI), and Charlie Dent (PA), and Sens. Bob Corker (TN) and Jeff Flake (AZ).

Clovis withdraws: Former Trump campaign co-chair Sam Clovis withdrew his nomination Thursday to be the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientist. Clovis' withdrawal comes amid revelations that he encouraged Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos' efforts to build a relationship between the campaign and Russian officials. Clovis had also been criticized for his lack of scientific credentials.

Clovis did not mention either of these issues in his withdrawal letter, instead blaming "the political climate inside Washington" for making "impossible for me to receive balanced and fair consideration for this position." Clovis said that he will remain in his current position as senior White House advisor at the Agriculture Department.

Menendez trial: The jury in the federal bribery trial of Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) heard closing arguments on Thursday. Menendez has been charged with corruption, accused of using his office to help the business interests of ophthalmologist Salmon Melgen, a top donor to his campaign, in exchange for gifts and political contributions. "Robert Menendez may have been elected to represent New Jersey, but Robert Menendez chose instead to represent the wealthy doctor from Florida -- he was Salomon Melgen's personal US senator," federal prosecutor J. P. Cooney said on Thursday. "This is what bribery looks like."

Russia investigation: Some recent developments in the Russia probe...

  • Sessions: "Attorney General Jeff Sessions rejected a proposal by a junior campaign aide who offered to use his "Russian contacts" to try to set up a meeting between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, a source familiar with the matter told NBC News... This new revelation is significant because Sessions told Congress under oath in June that he had 'no knowledge' of any conversations by anyone connected to the Trump campaign about 'any type of interference with any campaign' by Russians." (NBC)
  • "Former Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page privately testified Thursday that he mentioned to Jeff Sessions he was traveling to Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign... During more than six hours of closed-door testimony, Page said that he informed Sessions about his coming July 2016 trip to Russia, which Page told CNN was unconnected to his campaign role. Page described the conversation to CNN after he finished talking to the House intelligence committee." (CNN)
  • White House aides: "Jared Kushner has turned over documents in recent weeks to special counsel Robert Mueller as investigators have begun asking in witness interviews about Kushner's role in the firing of FBI Director James Comey, CNN has learned. " (CNN)
  • "Special counsel Robert Mueller's team has scheduled an interview with White House communications director Hope Hicks, CBS News chief White House correspondent Major Garrett confirms through sources familiar with the process." (CBS)
  • "Keith Schiller, a long-time adviser to Trump who left the White House in September after serving as director of Oval Office Operations, is expected to appear next Tuesday before the House intelligence committee, according to two of the sources. Schiller had long been by the President's side, and was the aide dispatched by Trump in May to deliver the news to the FBI that James Comey had been fired as bureau director." (CNN)
  • DC lobbyists: "Special counsel Robert Mueller’s grand jury is investigating a prominent Democratic lobbyist [Tony Podesta] and a former GOP congressman [Vin Weber] for their involvement in an influence campaign on behalf of Ukrainian interests tied to Paul Manafort, according to a person with direct knowledge of the investigation." (AP)
  • Manafort, Gates: "A federal judge on Thursday ordered President Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and his business associate Rick Gates to remain under home confinement and GPS monitoring for now. U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson decided to keep in place the restrictions that were put on the two men at their initial court appearance on Monday. Jackson said the unsecured bonds set earlier this week — $10 million for Manafort and $5 million for Gates — may not be enough to ensure the two men remain in the court's jurisdiction. She set a bail hearing for Monday." (NPR)
  • "Onetime Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort keeps three U.S. passports with different identification numbers and submitted 10 passport applications in as many years, the office of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III disclosed in a new court filing Tuesday arguing that Manafort poses a significant flight risk." (WaPo)

The President's Day

President Donald Trump departs today for his 12-day Asia trip, beginning with a stop in Hawaii. As of this publication, Trump is aboard Air Force One en route to Hawaii, where he will land tonight and participate in a U.S. Pacific Command briefing and a tour of the USS Arizona Memorial.

Today in Congress

The Senate is on recess today.

The House will vote on the Continuing Community Health And Medical Professional Programs to Improve Our Nation, Increase National Gains, and Help Ensure Access for Little Ones, Toddlers, and Hopeful Youth by Keeping Insurance Delivery Stable (CHAMPIONING HEALTHY KIDS) Act.