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Wake Up To Politics - October 30, 2017

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Monday, October 30, 2017. 8 days until Election Day 2017. 372 days until Election Day 2018. 1,100 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: Manafort, Gates Indicted in Mueller Investigation

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his longtime business associate Rick Gates "were told to surrender to federal authorities" this morning, the New York Times reported. Other outlets soon confirmed the news. The indictment of Manafort and Gates, the first charges to be filed in the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election by special counsel Robert Mueller, are expected to be unsealed later today. Manafort, who led the Trump campaign from June to August 2016, has been under investigation for "violations of federal tax law, money laundering and whether he appropriately disclosed his foreign lobbying," according to the Times.

CNN rocked the political world on Friday night with a report that a federal grand jury had approved the first charges in the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election led by special counsel Robert Mueller. The report was later confirmed by Reuters, the Wall Street Journal, NBC, and ABC. None of the outlets detailed what the charges were or named who was being targeted at the time.

The first indictment marks a new stage in Mueller's investigation, which is probing Russia's actions in 2016, as well as the possibility of collusion between the foreign power and the Trump campaign, and actions by President Donald Trump and his aides since taking office that may have obstructed investigations into these matters. According to Politico, White House aides and the President's legal team spent the weekend "scrambl[ing] to learn where the knife might full," engaged in the same "guessing game" as much of Washington. Publicly, however, Trump's lawyers are projecting confidence, with White House special counsel Ty Cobb telling the New York Times that "the President has no concerns in terms of any impact as to what happens to them on his campaign or on the White House."

Yet, President Trump seemed to undermine that argument on Sunday, launching into a five-part tweetstorm urging congressional Republicans to "DO SOMETHING" to change the focus in the investigation. Trump called the Russia probe a "Witch Hunt," pointing instead to recent reports on "GUILT by Democrats/Clinton," including "Clinton made Fake Dossier (now $12,000,000?), the Uranium to Russia deal, the 33,000 plus deleted Emails, the Comey fix and so much more." White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders joined in this message on Saturday, tweeting a link to a report on the Clinton campaign's paying for the famed Trump-Russia dossier and adding that it is "indisputable" that Clinton, not Trump, colluded with Russia during the election.

Trump's outside allies followed a familiar formula in responding to the reports of an indictment: claiming that Hillary Clinton was the real offender, blaming leaks from the grand jury, and calling for special counsel Robert Mueller. In a statement to reporters, however, Cobb insisted that Trump's tweets had nothing to do with the reports. "Contrary to what many have suggested, the President's comments today are unrelated to the activities of the Special Counsel, with whom he continues to cooperate," Cobb said on Sunday.

The Week Ahead

Buzz over the Mueller indictment is likely to suck up much of the oxygen in Washington this week, but here are some of the other issues to watch:

Tax reform: The White House and congressional Republicans continue to hammer out the final details in their historic overhaul of the U.S. tax code, eyeing a Wednesday release of the landmark bill. The GOP has pinned their hopes on passing tax reform legislation by the end of the year, seeking to go into the 2018 election cycle with passage of middle-class tax cuts under their belts.

Fed chair: President Trump is expected to name his nominee to chair the Federal Reserve this week, likely on Thursday. According to the Wall Street Journal, Fed governor Jerome Powell is the frontrunner for the key position.

Asia trip: The President departs for a five-country, 11-day Asia trip on Friday, the highest-stakes foreign trip of his presidency so far, which will be key to Trump's relationship with China and his strategy on North Korea.

Social media hearings: Representatives of Google, Facebook, and Twitter will testify on Capitol Hill on Wednesday and Thursday on Russian use of their platforms to influence the 2016 election.

As you might imagine, I had to quickly update my report on the indictment as the news broke just before I clicked "send." Wake Up To Politics will have more for you on all these stories tomorrow and in the days ahead...

The Rundown

  • Menendez trial: Lawyers for Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) formally requested a mistrial in his federal bribery case on Sunday, the Associated Press reports.
  • Trump family: Presidential son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner took an unannounced trip to Saudi Arabia, Politico scooped this weekend. Despite a promise not to strike any "new foreign deals" during the Trump presidency, Donald Trump Jr. is set to launch two Trump Organization projects in India, according to the Washington Post.
  • CA-GOV: Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti won't run for Governor of California, he announced in a series of Sunday tweets. Garcetti, who is seen as a potential 2020 presidential candidate, could have shaken up an open gubernatorial primary that already includes Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA), former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and State Treasurer John Chiang.
  • UT-SEN: Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) is privately saying that he doesn't plan to run for re-election in 2018, The Atlantic reported on Friday, and 2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney "intends to run" the seat if he does.
  • AZ-SEN: With Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) unexpectedly planning to retire, the Arizona Senate race has been thrown into "bedlam," a Republican pollster tells the New York Times. Republicans are eyeing State Treasurer Jeff DeWitt, Rep. Martha McSally, and former Rep. Matt Salmon, among others, as potential candidates in the primary; former state senator Kelli Ward is already running with the backing of Steve Bannon.
  • Long read: "John Boehner Unchained" via Politico Magazine --- I highly recommend this journalistic masterpiece, an epic tour through former House Speaker Hohn Boehner's career plus his honest opinions on many of his former colleagues and the current state of Congress. The story landed on Sunday, the second anniversary of Boehner's resignation.

The President's Day

As Washington buzzes about Mueller's first indictments, President Donald Trump spends much of the day in meetings before participating in some early trick-or-treating. In the morning, the President will receive his daily intelligence briefing, followed by a meeting with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. In the afternoon, Trump will have lunch with Vice President Mike Pence and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Later in the afternoon, the President will meet with Secretary of Defense James Mattis.

Finally, in the evening, President and First Lady Trump will "open the South Lawn to ghosts and goblins of all ages," according to the White House. The Trumps will hand out White House cookies, Presidential M&M's, and other candies to invited schoolchildren and parents from local schools, military families, and community organizations. "Fog will fill the air, and the trees and [mansion] will be lit with different colors throughout the night," the White House statement also said, adding that there will be "bats and orange pumpkins with profiles of past presidents" and the mansion will be "decorated in spider webs, creating a festive look and feel."

Today in Congress

The Senate: The upper chamber is scheduled to hold two votes today: on confirmation of Trevor N. McFadden to be a U.S. District Judge for the District of Columbia and advancing the nomination of Amy Barrett to be a U.S. Circuit Judge for the Seventh Circuit.

McFadden, a Washington, D.C.-based lawyer, has served as Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the DOJ's Criminal Division since Trump took office; Barrett, a former clerk for the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, is a professor at Notre Dame Law School. Her nomination gained attention last month when Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) came under fire for invoking Barrett's Catholic faith at her confirmation hearing, saying "the dogma lives loudly within you, and that's of concern." While McFadden was reported out of the Senate Judiciary Committee by voice vote, Barrett was approved by a party-line vote.

A "frenzy" of judicial confirmations is expected this week, which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) called "a big step toward restoring our nation’s courts to their proper role: interpreting and applying the law based on what it actually says, not what a judge wishes it might say." McConnell has been under pressure by conservative groups to continue approving President Trump's circuit court nominees; at a press conference with McConnell earlier this month, Trump called the number of his judicial nominees that have been confirmed "an untold story."

Also today: the Senate Foreign Relations Committee holds a hearing on the "Administration Perspective" on Authorizations for the Use of Military Force (AUMFs). Both Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense James Mattis will testify. The hearing will be chaired by Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), a top proponent of amending the post-9/11 AUMF, which was first passed to authorize the War in Afghanistan and is still used to greenlight military operations across the globe. Corker has also emerged as a leading critic of President Donald Trump inside the Republican Party, pointing to Tillerson and Mattis as among the officials who "separate our country from chaos."

--- Read more on congressional efforts to re-examine the 2001 AUMF, plus new details on how the Trump Administration has utilized the law, in this New York Times report from Saturday: "Will Congress Ever Limit the Forever-Expanding 9/11 War?"

The House: The lower chamber is not in session today.