TrumpWatch Daily Update; Week 42, Thursday
 
In China, President Trump projected an extremely unusual air of deference, not only for him but for any visiting American president. Far from attacking President Xi Jinping on trade, a frequent campaign theme, Trump saluted him for leading a country that he said had left the United States “so far behind.” He said he could not blame the Chinese for taking advantage of weak American trade policy. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson dismissed Trump’s contention that trade deficits were America’s fault as “a little bit of tongue in cheek” in the midst of a much tougher private discussion on trade imbalances.

Trump's voter-fraud commission was hit with a new federal lawsuit from one of its own members, Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap, one of 4 Democrats on the 11-member board. Dunlap’s suit alleges that he is being denied access to the commission's records and effectively frozen out of its activities, and thus that the commission is violating a 1972 law requiring transparency and balanced membership for such advisory groups. Kris Kobach, who effectively leads the commission responded in the media, saying that Dunlap’s allegations are mistaken and paranoid, that he has not been left off any communications for nearly two months because the commission hasn’t done anything in that time. Kobach blamed the lack of activist on the burden of defending against 8 other federal lawsuits challenging aspects of the panel's activities, the arrest of a commission staff member on child pornography charges, and the death of another Democrat on the commission, former Arkansas state legislator David Dunn.

On Monday, as the Department of Homeland Security prepared to extend the residency permits of tens of thousands of Hondurans living in the United States, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly called Acting Secretary Elaine Duke to pressure her to expel them. Duke refused to reverse her decision and was angered by what she felt was a politically driven intrusion by Kelly and Tom Bossert, the White House Homeland Security Adviser, who also called her. While Duke decided to end the Temporary Protected Status of 2,500 Nicaraguans, she granted a 6-month extension to 50,000 Hondurans whose TPS residency the White House wanted revoked. Sources told the Washington Post that Duke plans to resign.

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 11-9 to advance Trump’s nominee to fill a vacancy on the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals despite the fact that Leonard Steven Grasz of Nebraska was unanimously deemed “not qualified” to be a judge by the American Bar Association. ABA members raised concerns that Grasz would be “unable to separate his role as an advocate from that of a judge,” given his record on such issues as abortion. Among other things, he argued that lower courts should be able to overrule Supreme Court decisions on abortion rights because “abortion jurisprudence is, to a significant extent, a word game.”

The GOP tax bill in the Senate looks quite different from the one recently passed by the House Ways and Means Committee by a partisan vote. The Senate bill has more individual tax brackets than the House bill (7 instead of 4); it fully repeals the state and local tax deduction, which has become a must-save item for moderate Republicans in the House (the House bill repealed the deduction for state and local income and sales taxes, but preserved the property tax deduction up to $10,000); the Senate bill does not repeal the Estate Tax, as the House bill does, but will limit the number of families affected by it; and the Senate bill maintains a provision to allow individuals to write off medical expenses that exceed a certain amount of their income, something the House bill scrapped entirely.

Roy Moore, the Alabama Republican candidate to replace Jeff Sessions in the Senate, is alleged to have molested a 14 year old girl  in 1979, when he was an Assistant District Attorney. 3 other women, between the ages of 16 and 18, also allege that Moore asked them on dates and/or kissed them around the same time period, when he was in his 30s. While the GOP was relatively quick to embrace Moore after he defeated Luther Strange in the primary, many have quickly called for him to step aside in advance of next month’s election (though most have qualified that he should do so *if the allegations are true*). Moore denies the allegations.