Wednesday, November 30, 2016
51 Days until Inauguration Day
706 Days Until Election Day 2018 I'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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- Trump Announces Plans to Fully Leave Business; More Cabinet Announcements Coming President-elect Donald Trump continues to stock his Cabinet: after announcing his selection of Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) as Secretary of Health and Human Services on Tuesday morning (as reported in yesterday's newsletter), Trump announced later Tuesday that former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao was his pick for Transportation Secretary.
- This morning, Trump had been expected to make two new Cabinet announcements at 6:30am Eastern Time: instead, he threw a curveball. "I will be holding a major news conference in New York City with my children on December 15 to discuss the fact that I will be leaving my...great businesses in total in order to fully focus on running the country in order to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN," Trump tweeted this morning, breaking the announcement into multiple posts. "While I am not mandated to...do this under the law, I feel it is visually important as President, to in no way have a conflict of interest with my various businesses."
- "Hence, legal documents are being crafted which take me completely out of business operations. The Presidency is a far more important task," he finished.
- Those are all of the details of his exit that he gave; in the past, Trump has said that his children will take over the business, which ethics experts have concluded would still embroil the President-elect in a conflict of interest.
- A President opting to vacate themselves of any potential conflict of interest would not normally be headline news, except for Trump's past statements on the issue. "The president can't have a conflict of interest," Trump told The New York Times last week, echoing his tweet today that he had no legal obligation to step down (which is technically true, although his dozens of business dealings with foreign countries could violate the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution).
- In the Times interview, the President-elect even floated the potential of him remaining at Trump Organization. "In theory, I can be president of the United States and run my business 100 percent," he said, although it now appears he isn't planning to do so.
- As he turns to "fully focus" on running the country, Trump is, indeed, announcing his Cabinet picks at an expedited rate. According to the Washington Post, at this point in his 2008 transition, President Obama had named a single Cabinet secretary, his choice for Treasury. Four more appointments (Defense, Homeland Security, Justice, and State) would come on December 1 (and Obama was elected four days earlier than Trump).
- Trump, meanwhile, has already announced plans to nominate four members of his Cabinet: Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), attorney general; activist and GOP megadonor Betsy DeVos, education secretary; Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), HHS Secretary; and Elaine Chao, Transportation.
- In addition, the President-elect has named Gov. Nikki Haley (R-SC) as Ambassador to the UN, a Cabinet-level post, and announced his national security adviser, White House counsel, chief of staff, and chief strategist.
- Tuesday afternoon's appointment of Chao was Trump's first Cabinet member with Executive Branch experience. Chao was born in Taipei, Taiwan to Chinese-born parents, and moved to the United States at age 8 with no prior knowledge of the English language.
- Chao's first government experience came with a White House Fellowship in 1983, during the Reagan Administration. She quickly rose to become deputy administrator of the Maritime Administration (a Transportation Department post) in 1986, and then chair of the Federal Maritime Commission in 1988.
- In 1989, President Geroge H.W. Bush chose her to be Deputy Transportation Secretary; from 1991 to 1992, Chao was first Asian Pacific American to serve as Director of the Peace Corps.
- In 1993, then out of government, Chao married Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who is now Senate Majority Leader, one of the most powerful posts in Trump's Washington. Under George W. Bush, Chao would become Secretary of Labor, the only Cabinet member to remain for all eight years of that Administration.
- In between the two Bush Presidencies and after the second, Chao has worked as President and CEO of United Way America, as a Distinguished Fellow of the Heritage Administration, and as a Fox News contributor. She currently serves on the corporate boards of News Corps, Wells Fargo, Ingersoll Rand, and Vulcan Materials.
- "Secretary Chao's extensive record of strong leadership and her expertise are invaluable assets in our mission to rebuild our infrastructure in a fiscally responsible manner," President-elect Trump said in his Tuesday statement. "She has an amazing life story and has helped countless Americans in her public service career."
- A plan to rebuild America's infrastructure was one of Trump's most prominent campaign promises, giving Chao potential to play a significant role from her perch as Transportation Secretary.
- The appointment was widely praised by Republicans, and received little dissent from Democrats. Sen. McConnell called his wife "an outstanding choice," telling reporters, "I will not be recusing myself."
- Although there has still not be an formal announcements from the transition team, after widespread news reports Tuesday, hedge fund CEO Steve Mnuchin and billionaire investor Wilbur Ross confirmed in a joint interview on CNBC's "Squawk Box" that they were the nominees for Treasury Secretary and Commerce Secretary, respectively.
- Mnuchin is the second alumnus of Goldman Sachs to join Trump's Administration (after chief strategist Steve Bannon). Mnuchin currently works as a film producer in Hollywood, with credits as executive producer on movies including Batman v. Superman, The Intern, Entourage, Mad Max, Get Hard, American Sniper, This Is Where I Leave You, and The Lego Movie.
- He was also the national finance chairman of Trump's presidential campaign, and currently serves as CEO of the hedge fund Dune Capital.
- "Wilbur I and are going to work very closely together," Mnuchin said this morning on CBS, referring to Commerce Secretary-designate Wilbur Ross. Also a billionaire (the third in the Trump Cabinet, after DeVos and Mnuchin), Ross, 79, was a huge donor to trump's campaign, and has known the President-elect for decades.
- "Ross has grown rich by buying troubled companies in industries such as steel, textiles, auto parts and coal and restructuring them, often with significant layoffs and budget cuts," according to NPR. Forbes ranks him as the 232nd richest person in the country.
Capitol Hill News
- Congressional Schedule The Senate will convene at 10am today, with no votes scheduled.
- The House will also meet at 10am today, with votes expected to last from around 1pm to around 6pm. The chamber is set to approve fourteen measures: many of them simply renaming federal buildings, although others are higher-priority.
- Among the bills that the House is voting on is the 21st Century Cures Act, which funds the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration, mental health and anti-opiod abuse programs, and Vice President Joe Biden's cancer "moonshoot" initiative.
- Also today: the 198 members of the House Democratic Caucus for the next Congress will hold a closed-door meeting to choose their floor leader.
- Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was not expected to face a serious challenge, although Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH)'s candidacy has gained momentum in recent days. However, Pelosi still claimed Tuesday to have the support of three-fourths of the caucus.
- Even if Pelosi wins re-election (as expected), the number of Democrats who signed on to her challenger may be worrisome to her allies. Ryan's challenge represents the discontent felt by many junior House Democrats, particularly the minority who hail from the Midwest, in a caucus dominated by senior representatives from New York and California.
- In recent days, to signal changes that will be made in the caucus to accommodate members with less seniority, Pelosi announced plans to add Vice Ranking Members to each committee, make the Democratic Policy and Communications chairmanship an elected position, add regional Vice Chairs to the DCCC, and add a freshman representative to the leadership team. Each of these posts would come with limits to ensure they are held by less senior members.
White House Watch
- The President's Schedule President Barack Obama has just one event on his public schedule today: a 4:35pm meeting with the 2016 Nobel Prize laureates from the United States.
- There are six: Bob Dylan, literature; Oliver Hart, Economics; David Thouless, F. Duncan Haldane, and John Kosterlitz, Physics.
- President-elect Favorability Gallup has conducted its first poll of President-elect Trump's favorability since his victory, finding an eight-point jump in his favorable rating since the election, even as Trump still trails past Presidents-elect.
- In a Gallup poll conducted from November 1 to November 6, Trump's favorability stood at 34%. The Gallup poll conducted from November 9 to November 16 found a jump to 42%, with his unavailability at 55%. That -13% rating is low for an individual just elected President: Bill Clinton and George W. Bush both had +23% ratings immediately after their election, Barack Obama had +41.
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