Wake Up To Politics - November 6, 2017
I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Monday, November 6, 2017. 1 day until Election Day 2017. 365 days until Election Day 2018. 1,093 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Tell your friends to sign up to receive the newsletter in their inbox at wakeuptopolitics.com/subscribe!
The Latest: Texas shooting
At least 26 people were killed in a shooting at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas on Sunday; about 20 more were wounded. According to law enforcement, victims ranged in age from 5 to 72 years old, and included the 14-year-old daughter of the church's pastor.
The suspected shooter, 26-year-old Devin Patrick Kelley, was later found dead in his vehicle. Kelley was a member of the U.S. Air Force until receiving a bad conduct discharge after being imprisoned for assault on his spouse and child. Law enforcement have yet to indicate if they have the found a motive for the suspect.
"This horrible act of evil occurred as the victims and their families were in their place of sacred worship," President Donald Trump said in a statement on Sunday, while traveling in Asia. "We cannot put into words the pain and grief we all feel, and we cannot begin to imagine the suffering of those who lost the ones they loved. Our hearts are broken." The President continued: "But in dark times such as these, Americans do what we do best: we pull together. We join hands. We lock arms. And through the tears and the sadness, we stand strong."
Trump also said that he had spoken to Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX) and that his Administration was providing support to state and local authorities investigating the attack. In addition, the President signed a proclamation ordering flags be lowered to half-staff until Thursday in honor of the shooting's victims.
Later on Sunday, at a joint press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Trump dismissed questions on gun control, saying it was "a little bit too soon" to discuss potential legislation. "This isn't a guns situation," he said, adding: "This is a mental health problem at the highest level." Trump also called the gunman "deranged," while praising Johnnie Langendorff, a neighbor who opened fire on the shooter and chased him down.
Sunday's shooting is the deadliest in Texas history, as well as the worst church shooting in U.S. history and the fifth-deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. The attack comes just over a month after the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, the Las Vegas shooting, which led to brief momentum for gun control legislation, with a bipartisan group of lawmakers introducing a bill banning bump stocks. The bill has not moved forward since its introduction.
In a statement on Sunday, Congress' leading advocate for gun control, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) appealed to his colleagues to take action. "As my colleagues go to sleep tonight, they need to think about whether the political support of the gun industry is worth the blood that flows endlessly onto the floors of American churches, elementary schools, movie theaters, and city streets," he said.
Paul assaulted by neighbor
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) was assaulted at his home on Friday by a neighbor, Rene Boucher, who has been charged with one count of fourth-degree assault. An adviser to Paul released a statement on Sunday outlining Paul's injuries, revealing them to be worse than originally thought.
"Senator Paul has five rib fractures including three displaced fractures,” strategist Doug Stafford said. “This type of injury is caused by high velocity severe force. It is not clear exactly how soon he will return to work, as the pain is considerable as is the difficulty in getting around, including flying.” Stafford also said that Paul has contusions caused by the broken ribs. Paul was bleeding around his mouth and had difficulty breathing after Boucher "tackled the senator from behind," according to Politico.
It is unclear what Boucher's motive was, but someone who knows him told the Washington Post that "he's pretty much the opposite of Rand Paul in every way," adding that the neighbors have had "heated discussions" on politics in the past.
Paul's absence from Washington could further complicate the Republican leadership's legislative agenda, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) can only afford to lose three GOP votes when the party's tax reform proposal comes up for a vote soon.
The Russia Investigation
Paradise Papers: A group of 90+ news organizations from around the globe unveiled the Paradise Papers this weekend, a series of 13.4 million leaked documents showing the workings of offshore finance. Among the revelations: after being sworn in, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross "retained investments in a shipping firm he once controlled that has significant business ties to a Russian oligarch subject to American sanctions and President Vladimir V. Putin's son-law," according to the New York Times.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) has initiated calls for an investigation of the Ross' business connections to Russia, which he said were not disclosed on his personal financial-disclosure form. "In concealing an ongoing financial relationship [with] Russian oligarchs, Sec. Ross misled me, Senate Commerce Committee & the American people," Blumenthal wrote on Twitter. "Why do so many Trump associates have such trouble disclosing relationships with Russia?"
According to the Times, the Ross ties to Russia are the first "business connections [that] have been reported between senior [Trump] administration officials and members of Mr. Putin's family or inner circle."
Ross told BBC in an interview today that there is "nothing whatsoever improper" about the relationship between Putin and the shipping company, adding that the accusation that he did not disclose the holdings is "evil."
Could Flynn be next for Mueller? NBC News reported on Sunday that Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team has "gathered enough evidence to bring charges" in the investigation of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and his son. Flynn, a former Trump campaign surrogate, served in the Administration for less than a month, until being fired when his contacts with Russian officials came under question.
According to NBC, "Mueller is applying renewed pressure on Flynn following his indictment of Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort." The report also said that the special counsel could also indict Flynn's son, potentially to increase the chances of the elder Flynn's cooperation. Flynn is being investigated for his lobbying work before joining the Trump Administration.
The President's Schedule
President Donald Trump is currently on the fourth day of his 12-day, five-nation tour of Asia. Trump closed the Japan leg of the trip earlier today, and later today, he will travel to South Korea. After arriving in Korea, Trump will have lunch with U.S troops and receive an operational briefing at Camp Humphreys before participating in an arrival ceremony in Seoul. Trump will spend the rest of the day with President Moon Jae-In of South Korea, participating in two bilateral meetings with Moon, as well as a friendship walk, tea ceremony, joint press conference, and state dinner.
Trump's trip has focused on North Korea, a topic that will likely dominate the coming leg. "The era of strategic patience is over," the President declared in remarks on North Kore early this morning. At a joint press conference, Trump and Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe sought to showcase their unity against Pyongyang. "We are together 100 percent," Abe said, joining Trump in "applying a maximum level of pressure on North Korea." Trump spoke about the Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea, saying that their release "would be the start of something I think would be something very special," a clear signal to Kim Jong-un.
NOTE: Due to the time zone difference, these events reflect President Trump's schedule from 8pm Eastern Time today to 5:35am Eastern Time tomorrow morning.
Today in Congress
Tax reform: The main event on Capitol Hill today... the House Ways and Means Committee begins markup of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the House Republican tax reform legislation. The panel will continue its line-by-line consideration of the 429-page bill all week.
According to the Washington Post, members of the Ways and Means Committee met on Sunday to debate potential changes to the bill as GOP senators from across the ideological spectrum offer objections. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said on "Fox News Sunday" that "one of the things that's being discussed" is adding a repeal of Obamacare's individual mandate to the bill, which President Trump has urged.
The current legislation, unveiled by House Republicans on Thursday, would be the most sweeping overhaul of the U.S. tax cuts since the 1980's. The party hopes to have the bill on President Trump's desk by Christmas.
The Senate: The upper chamber has one roll call scheduled today, a procedural vote advancing the nomination of Steven Andrew Engel to be Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC). A former clerk for Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, Engel served under George W. Bush as Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the OLC, which advises the entire executive branch on legal questions.
The House: The lower chamber is scheduled to vote on five bills, all focused on veterans affairs.