Wake Up To Politics - October 11, 2017
I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It's Wednesday, October 11, 2017. 391 days until Election Day 2018. 1,119 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at email@example.com. Tell your friends to sign up to receive the newsletter in their inbox at wakeuptopolitics.com/subscribe!
Supreme Court dismisses travel ban case
The Supreme Court dismissed a pending case over President Donald Trump's travel ban on Tuesday. The case, which originated in Maryland, was one of two pending challenges to Trump's March executive order prohibiting travel to the U.S. from six Muslim-majority nations, which expired on September 27. The ban was superseded by a September 24 order by the President indefinitely prohibiting immigration from eight countries, adding North Korea and Venezuela to the list; the latest order, which is being challenged in lower courts, represents the third version of the travel ban signed by President Trump since taking office.
The justices had been scheduled to hear oral arguments on Tuesday in two cases on the March order; they formally dismissed the Maryland case since the order in question had expired, while a case from Hawaii remains in the books. The second case also involves the ban on refugees included in the March order, which does not expire until October 24.
Tuesday's developments represent a victory for the Trump Administration, which had requested that both cases be tossed out. The court also followed the Administration's urging in vacating the appeals court decision in the Maryland case, which included a Fourth Circuit court opinion that said the travel ban "drops with religious intolerance, animus, and discrimination." Challengers to the ban had wanted the court to still hear arguments on the legality of the expired ban, or at least to leave the lower court ruling in place so it could still be used as precedent. They were unsuccessful on both counts.
The Supreme Court decision came in a two-paragraph unsigned order, with Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissented, saying she believed the Fourth Circuit decision should have been allowed to stand.
Lawmakers introduce bipartisan bump stocks bill
Reps. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) and Seth Moulton (D-MA) on Tuesday introduced bipartisan legislation banning bump stocks, a device that allows a semi-automatic weapon to fire at the speed of a fully automatic firearm. The renewed push to ban the accessory comes after Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock was found to have guns modified with bump stocks in his hotel room.
The National Rifle Association (NRA) endorsed restrictions on bump stocks over the weekend, although the group called on the Bureau of Alchohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) to address the issue instead of Congress. During the Obama Administration, the ATF issued an opinion confirming the legality of the devices and deciding not to regulate their manufacture or sale.
Curbelo and Moulton were joined by a bipartisan group of 18 co-sponsors, including ten Republicans. Many of the GOP supporters of the legislation represent districts won by Hillary Clinton in 2016, including Reps. Curbelo, Charlie Dent (R-PA) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL). While Curbelo is one of the most vulnerable GOP members facing re-election in 2018, Dent and Ros-Lehtinen have both announced plans to retire at the end of their current term. Republican leaders, including House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), have expressed openness to supporting bump stock legislation, although it is unclear if they will lend support to the bipartisan bill.
"For the first time in decades, there is growing bipartisan consensus for sensible gun policy, a polarizing issue that has deeply divided Republicans and Democrats,” Curbelo said in a statement. “This common-sense legislation will ban devices that blatantly circumvent already existing law without restricting Second Amendment rights. I’m proud to join Representative Moulton to lead our colleagues in this important first step to address gun violence in our country and show that Congress is capable of working constructively in a bipartisan way to make Americans safer.”
Drip, drip, drip
Two developments in congressional Russia probes...
- Page to plead the fifth Former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page told the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday that "he will not be cooperating with any requests to appear before the panel for its investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and would plead the Fifth," Politico reported.
- According to a Washington Post report from April, the FBI obtained a court order during the 2016 election to monitor Page's communications, convincing a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judge "that there was probable cause to believe Page was acting as an agent of a foreign power, in this case Russia."
- Page confirmed his plans to plead the Fifth Amendment to CNN, saying that he was refusing to submit a "vast array" of documents to the panel, which he believed exceeded the committee's scope of inquiry. However, Page said he hoped to testify publicly before the panel, offering to appear at a November 1 open hearing on Russian use of social media to influence the election. The panel has requested testimony for the hearing from representatives of Facebook, Google, and Twitter.
- Fusion GPS subpoenaed The House Intelligence Committee has subpoenaed Fusion GPS, the research firm that assembled a well-known dossier on President Trump's connections to Russia, which included salacious allegations. In a Tuesday letter on the subpoenas, which were issued last week, a lawyer for the firm said they were a "blatant attempt to undermine the reporting" of the dossier.
- The lawyer also took issue with the lawmaker behind the subpoenas: Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA). Nunes chairs the intelligence panel, but has recused himself from the Russia investigation after sharing classified information with the Trump Administration. Fusion GPS' attorney said Nunes "now appears to be running a parallel investigation outside of the official [House Intelligence Committee] investigation" run by Reps. Mike Conaway (R-TX) and ranking member Adam Schiff (D-CA). According to CNN, Conaway signed off on the subpoenas, but committee Democrats were not informed.
"The Apprentice": White House edition
Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) told the New York Times over the weekend that President Trump was treating his office like "a reality show." Two storylines giving that would fit nicely into such a show:
- Trump vs. Tillerson Fallout continues over reports that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson privately labeled Trump to be a "moron." On Tuesday, Forbes published an interview with Trump in which the President says: "I think it's fake news, but if he did that, I guess we'll have to compare IQ tests. And I can tell you who is going to win."
- Asked to respond to questions over the Secretary's IQ, spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters: "It's high," but declined to offer any tests.
- White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said at her own press briefing that the comment was "a joke." CNN's Jim Acosta later reported that a source close to the White House told him "Trump was not joking when he said he and Tillerson should compare IQ tests, contrary to comments at briefing."
- Mensa, an international society for IQ test top scorers, said Tuesday that the group "would be happy to hold a testing session for President Trump and Secretary Tillerson."
- Melania vs. Ivana "I'm basically first Trump wife, OK? I'm first lady, OK?" President Trump's ex-wife, Ivana Trump, told ABC on Monday. She also said she speaks to her former husband every other week, saying that she has a "direct number" to the White House and that the President offered her the U.S. ambassadorship to the Czech Republic.
- A spokeswoman for First Lady Melania Trump responded to the comments, saying: "There is clearly no substance to this statement from an ex, this is unfortunately only attention-seeking and self-serving noise." The First Lady's office also accused Trump's first wife of using the controversy to sell books; she released "Raising Trump," a memoir on raising Donald Jr., Eric, and Ivanka Trump, on Tuesday.
- "Real Housewives" executive producer Andy Cohen tweeted: "Only one person can mediate this! @FLOTUS
#Ivana @itsmarlamaples @IvankaTrump please call me. Let's do this."
2018 Central: Hawley announces Missouri Senate bid
Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley announced a U.S. Senate campaign against Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) on Tuesday. “Senator McCaskill — she’s been in D.C. forever. She’s turned her back on farmers. She’s ignored working families,” Hawley said in a video launching his campaign. Hawley, 37, was elected as the state's top law enforcement officer last year.
In a year when anti-establishment Republicans are expected to offer candidates for almost every Senate seat, Hawley seems to be one of the few candidates who has bridged the party's deep divide. He was endorsed on Tuesday by the conservative Club for Growth and by former Sen. John Danforth (R-MO), a "Never Trump" Republican. According to Morning Consult, Hawley also met with former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon last week, and has received praise from Great America Alliance, a group with ties to Bannon, and Breitbart News, which Bannon leads.
In an exclusive comment to Wake Up To Politics on Tuesday, Sen. McCaskill, one of the most vulnerable Democrats facing re-election in 2018, responded to Hawley's announcement. "My congratulations to Mitch McConnell for getting his candidate. Maybe now he will begin to answer some questions," she said. "I’m doing my 44th and 45th townhalls today. Answering lots of questions. Meanwhile Hawley has been behind closed doors with Washington insiders answering none."
The President's Day
At 10am, President Donald Trump receives his daily intelligence briefing.
At 1:45pm, President and First Lady Trump welcome Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada and his wife Grégoire Trudeau. At 2:05pm, the President meets with the Prime Minister. At 2:15pm, the President leads an expanded bilateral meeting with Trudeau and his delegation. Trudeau previously met with Trump in the Oval Office in February; according to White House readouts, the two leaders have spoken on the phone together seven times, most recently on October 2, when Trudeau called to offer his condolences following the shooting in Las Vegas.
The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), a 1994 pact between Canada, Mexico, and the U.S., will likely be a main topic of discussion between Trump and Trudeau. Trump has long been critical of the agreement, calling it "the worst trade deal maybe ever signed anywhere" at a September 2016 campaign rally. Threatening to withdraw from the deal, Trump has initiated renegotiations between the three nations involved.
Those talks begin their fourth round today, with Axios reporting that U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, an economic nationalist ally of former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, plans to present an opening bid seen as "unreasonable and inflexible" by many on Capitol Hill. According to the report, Ligthizer's controversial proposals — which include a requirement that the agreement beAfter his meetings with Trudeau, at
approved anew by each country every five years — "are expected to attract vehement opposition from Congress, large sections of the U.S. business community and leaders in Canada and Mexico."3:15pm, the President departs the White House for Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where he arrives in at 4:20pm. At 5:45pm, Trump delivers remarks on tax reform at the Harrisburg Air National Guard Base, his top legislative priority, before departing Harrisburg at 6:25pm and returning to the White House at 7:30pm. The President will be speaking in support of the Republican tax reform framework released late last month, which calls for reducing the number of individual tax brackets and slashing the corporate tax rate.
Trump has been traveling across the country to build support for the tax plan, making the case that it will benefit middle-class Americans. He has mostly visited states with Democratic senators, hoping to pressure lawmakers into lending the plan bipartisan support; the Keystone State is represented by Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA). Republicans hope to pass tax reform legislation by the end of the year; budget resolutions are currently in the works in both houses of Congress that will pave the way for fast-tracking a tax bill. This is Trump's third visit to Pennsylvania since taking office, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Trump spoke about the need for tax reform after meeting with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger on Tuesday, citing the incorrect claim that the U.S. is the "highest taxed nation in the world," which he has repeated since launching his presidential campaign. Pressed about the false assertion at her Tuesday press briefing, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that Trump was referring to the U.S. leading the world in corporate tax rate. "Sorry, we're just going to have to agree to disagree," she said when a reporter pointed out that the President has long claimed that the U.S. is the highest taxed in general.
Today in Congress
The Senate is not in session today. The House is scheduled to vote on ten pieces of legislation, all boasting bipartisan support.
The highest court in the land hears oral arguments in two cases today:
- National Association of Manufacturers v. Department of Defense, which asks if circuit courts or district courts have jurisdiction in a challenge to the Obama-era Waters of the United States rule.
- Jesner v. Arab Bank, PLC, which asks if the Alien Tort Statute (which allows foreigners to bring human rights cases before U.S. courts even if the offense was not committed in the U.S.) applies to cases where the defendant is a corporation.