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Wake Up To Politics - October 4, 2017

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It's Wednesday, October 4, 2017. 398 days until Election Day 2018. 1,126 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!

Trump to Las Vegas After Mass Shooting

For the second time in as many days, President Donald Trump travels across the United States to comfort victims of a tragedy today. At 7:40am Eastern Time, the President departs the White House; he is set to arrive in Las Vegas at 9:30am Pacific Time, just three days after the city was rocked by a mass shooting that killed at least 59 people and injured over 500 more.

Trump told reporters on Tuesday that he "will be paying our personal respects and condolences" to victims of the shooting, which he described as "such a tragedy" and "so unnecessary." Earlier in the day, the President labeled the shooter as "a sick man, a demented man," while praising the "incredible job" done by the police department in responding to the massacre. Trump also said that the law enforcement response was a "miracle," a phrase he would apply to Puerto Rican recovery efforts later in the day.

Amid Democratic calls for increased gun control legislation in the wake of the attack, Trump also told reporters on Tuesday "we'll be talking about gun laws as time goes on," while echoing his press secretary in saying "that's not for now." Many Democrats have pinned their hopes on Trump to strike another deal across the aisle and join their push for gun control. "Let's see if [Preisdent Trump] has the courage, the willpower to say, 'I’m going to break with that small group [of gun rights advocates]' and do something that makes common sense and Americans — in overwhelming numbers, Democrats, Republicans and independents — want," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said.

However, White House talking points obtained by NBC News showed no sign of change in the Administration's position, instructing allies to say that "new laws won't stop a mad man committed to harming innocent people" but will "curtail the freedoms of law abiding citizens" instead. "Let's gather the facts before we make sweeping policy arguments for curtailing the Second Amendment," the memo said.

Republican leaders have remained firm in their refusal to consider gun control legislation. "I think it's premature to be discussing legislative solutions, if there are any," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said on Tuesday, calling it "particularly inappropriate to politicize an event like this." Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, who is now on a crusade against the Republican establishment from his post atop Breitbart News, told Axios that it "will be the end of everything" if Trump supported gun control.

On his Las Vegas schedule today: the President visits with patients and medical professionals at 10 am, and with civilian heroes and first responders at 11:50am. He will be joined by First Lady Melania Trump, Houe Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), and Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV).

At 1:10pm, Trump departs Las Vegas, returning to the White House at 8:30pm Eastern Time.

Investigations Continue to Plague Trump Administration

It's not just probes into Trump's ties with Russia. New investigations into Trump Administration officials are cropping up...

  • PRIVATE EMAIL: The White House is conducting an internal probe into reported use of private email accounts by a number of top officials to conduct official business, including senior advisor Jared Kushner, former chief of staff Reince Priebus, and former chief strategist Steve Bannon.
  • Politico reported on Monday that White House officials are examining a third account on the Kushner family domain, in addition to Kushner's and Ivanka Trump's personal addresses. According to the report, the emails sent to the third account "include nonpublic travel documents, internal schedules and some official White House materials."
  • In light of reporting on their private email, Kushner and Ivanka Trump "re-routed their personal email accounts to computers run by the Trump Organization," according to a USA Today report on Tuesday.
  • Meanwhile... McClatchy reported on Tuesday that the two presidential relatives turned White House advisers were fined $200 each for again "missing deadlines to submit financial reports required by government ethics rules."
  • TRAVEL: In the days since HHS Secretary Tom Price's resignation, a number of agencies have announced reviews into questionable travel practices. Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin are also being investigated by their agency's Office of the Inspector General. Zinke was added to the list on Monday, while Shulkin was added on Tuesday.
  • Also on Tuesday: the Treasury Department launched an inquiry into one of Mnuchin's top aides after the Washington Post reported that they flew on a private jet to Palm Beach, Florida with a hedge fund billionaire.
  • RETWEETS = ENDORSEMENTS? The U.S. Office of Special Counsel sent UN Ambassador Nikki Haley an official warning letter on Tuesday, concluding that she violated the Hatch Act (which prohibits political activity by government officials) by retweeting a message from President Trump about a South Carolina congressional candidate.

The Rundown

  • INSIDE FOGGY BOTTOM: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson privately referred to President Donald Trump as a "moron" in July and came close to resigning, according to a report from NBC News this morning. The report also said that Vice President Mike Pence "counseled Tillerson...on ways to ease tensions with Trump." Tillerson's top spokesman denied the report.
  • The relationship between President Trump and his chief diplomat do not seem to have improved greatly: in August, Tillerson angered Trump by distancing himself from the President's response to violence in Charlottesville; in addition, just this past weekend, Trump publicly announced skepticism about Tillerson's negotiations with North Korea.
  • DRIP, DRIP, DRIP: Russian-linked Facebook ads were "highly sophisticated in their targeting of key demographic groups" in key states in the 2016 election, including Michigan and Wisconsin, CNN reported Tuesday. According to the report, "The ads employed a series of divisive messages aimed at breaking through the clutter of campaign ads online, including promoting anti-Muslim messages."
  • Facebook turned over all 3,000+ Russian-bought ads to congressional investigators on Monday, estimating in a statement that they were seen by 10 million people in the United States.
  • FED SHORTLIST: The White House has narrowed down a list of candidates for consideration to name as chair of the Federal Reserve, Bloomberg reported: National Economic director Gary Cohn, former Fed governor Kevin Warsh, current governor Jerome Powell, economist Glenn Hubbard, and U.S. Bancorp chairman Richard Davis. Trump has also spoken to sitting Fed chair Janet Yellen about renominating her. According to Bloomberg, there is no frontrunner for the post.
  • GOP REP URGED ABORTION: The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette obtained text messages between Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA) and the woman he admitted last month to having an affair with. In the texts, the woman accused Murphy of hypocrisy: "You have zero issue posting your pro-life stance all over the place when you had no issue asking me to abort our unborn child just last week when we thought that was one of the options," she wrote.
  • The congressman responded, "I get what you say about my [anti-abortion] messages. I've never written them. Staff does them. I read them and winced. I told staff don't write any more. I will." Murphy's office declined to comment on the report.
  • Just hours after the report, Murphy voted in favor of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, a bill he co-sponsored banning most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Today in the Senate: HHS, Fed nominations

At 9:30am, the Senate begins work for the day. Following Leader remarks, the chamber will resume debate on the nomination of Eric Hargan to be Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services. Hargan, a former HHS official in the George W. Bush Administration, was tapped for the No. 2 post in March, but his nomination has taken on new significance since the resignation of HHS Secretary Tom Price last week. With Price gone and the deputy slot vacant, the agency's No. 3 official, Assistant Secretary for Health Don Wright is currently serving as Acting Secretary.

At 11am, the Senate will hold a cloture vote on the Hargan nomination, before holding a final confirmation vote at 3:15pm. Following the Hargan vote, the upper chamber will hold a cloture vote on the nomination of Randal Quarles to be a member of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors. Quarles, founder of private investment firm The Cynosure Group and a former partner at private equity firm The Carlyle Group, served in the Treasury Department under Presidents George H.W Bush and George W. Bush. As Under Secretary of the Treasury for Domestic Finance in the second Bush Administration, Quarles was a top advocate for reforming the financial regulatory system, calling for enhanced regulation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Quarles was nominated in July to serve as a member of the Fed board of governors and Vice Chair for Supervision, a post that has yet to be filled since its creation by the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act.

Also today: former Equifax chairman and CEO Richard Smith testifies on his credit reporting company's data breach before the Senate Banking Committee at 10am today and before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee at 2:30pm. Smith apologized for the hacking in testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Tuesday, telling lawmakers that "I'm truly and deeply sorry for what happened." Smith is also set to testify before the House Financial Services Committee on Thursday, and before the Senate Commerce Committee later this month.

Plus... Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) and vice chairman Mark Warner (D-VA) will hold a press conference "on the status of the Committee's inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections." Warner's spokesperson emailed reporters on Tuesday to say "there will be news" at the presser, but "I cannot tell you what it is."

Today in the House: Budget

The House convenes for the day at 10am. The chamber will begin consideration of the House GOP budget resolution today. Four hours of debate are scheduled on the resolution, before a Thursday vote. 30 minutes of debate are also expected on budget proposals from the Congressional Black Caucus, the House Budget Committee Democrats, the Republican Study Committee, and the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

Quote of the Day

"I hate to tell you Puerto Rico, but you've thrown our budget a little out of whack." — President Donald Trump, during his trip to the island territory on Tuesday. Trump raised eyebrows with a number of comments during the visit, including a favorable comparison of the death toll from Hurricane Maria to the deaths from Hurricane Katrina. "Sixteen people versues in the thousands," he said.


In Tuesday's newsletter, the quote asking "If not now, when?" should have been attributed to Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT)