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Situational awareness - December 19, 2017

Good Tuesday morning from Salt Lake City.

Utahns are in favor of a ballot initiative to create an independent redistricting commission. Robert Mueller's Russia investigation could take another year. The GOP tax package heads to the House floor on Tuesday.

Tick tock:

Utahns support ballot initiative to establish independent redistricting commission

Most Utahns (57%) support the proposed ballot initiative that would create an independent redistricting commission to advise the Legislature on redrawing the political boundaries every 10 years, but 19% say they "don't know" enough about the proposal to form an opinion.

Surprisingly, even a majority of Republicans in Utah support the proposal, as do Democrats and independent voters. [Utah Policy]

Tuesday is the day for tax reform

The GOP tax overhaul package will hit the House floor on Tuesday, where it will likely pass in short order then move to the Senate. The bill has a little more tax relief for middle-income earners, but most of the benefits still go to those at the top of the income scale. [Washington Post]

55% of Americans oppose the tax package, which is a jump of 10 points since November according to a new CNN poll. Just 33% of Americans favor the plan. [CNN]

Russia investigation could last another year

President Donald Trump's legal team will meet with special counsel Robert Mueller's office this week hoping that the investigation's focus on the president will be over soon, but that's probably not going to happen. Those close to the probe say the investigation could last another year at least. [Washington Post]

President Trump is telling close friends and advisers he expects Mueller will write a letter soon clearing him in the investigation. If that does not happen, associates worry it will enrage Trump, which could lead to him trying to fire Mueller. [CNN]

Meanwhile, the Senate investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election has taken a strange turn. Investigators have asked Green Party candidate Jill Stein to turn over documents from the election. [BuzzFeed]

Sen. Orrin Hatch denies tax negotiators bought Sen. Bob Corker's vote

Sen. Orrin Hatch pushed back hard against allegations they included a "pass-through" provision in the final tax package that would benefit Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker to buy his vote. Corker got on board with the bill over the weekend, but some questioned the timing of the arrangement, dubbing it the "Corker Kickback." [Utah Policy]

Sen. Mike Lee is on board with the GOP tax overhaul bill

Not that there was much doubt, but Sen. Mike Lee says he will "proudly vote" for the GOP tax package when it comes to the Senate later this week. Lee had pushed for a greater expansion in the child tax credit and got it. Lee's decision to vote in favor of the bill virtually assures it will pass. [Utah Policy]

The Trump Doctrine

President Donald Trump unveiled his new national security strategy on Monday, reaffirming his "America First" stance. Trump slammed "failures" by previous presidents as damaging to American security.

"On top of everything else, our leaders drifted from American principles, they lost sight of America's destiny, and they lost their belief in American greatness," Trump said. "As a result, our citizens lost something as well. The people lost confidence in their government and eventually even lost confidence in their future." [New York Times].

Trump considered pulling Gorsuch's SCOTUS nomination

President Donald Trump has crowed about putting Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court early in his term, but he reportedly considered rescinding that nomination because he was angry Gorsuch distanced himself from the president, and was critical of Trump's attacks on the judiciary. Aides say Trump worried Gorsuch would not be "loyal" to Trump. It's not clear how serious Trump was about kicking Gorsuch to the curb. [Washington Post]

Amtrak disaster

At least three people died, and more than 100 were injured when an Amtrak passenger train derailed in Washington State. The train was on a new route when it jumped the track on a highway overpass. [CNN]

The train was reportedly traveling 80 mph in a 30 mph zone during its inaugural trip on the new track. [Fox News]

It only took two minutes to scuttle a lifetime appointment

Remember the BYU grad who struggled to answer basic questions about legal procedure during a Senate confirmation hearing about his nomination to be a federal judge? He withdrew his nomination on Monday after being roundly mocked since the video went viral. [Utah Policy]

Another Salt Lake Olympics?

Utah officials say they would rather bid to host the Winter Olympics in 2030 instead of 2026, but they would be ready to go if needed. Waiting until 2030 would allow Salt Lake organizers to line up sponsorships after the 2028 Los Angeles Summer Games.

Other U.S. cities eyeing a Winter Olympic bid include Denver and Reno. [USA Today]

Quick links

On this day in history

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Today At Utah Policy

Most Utahns support ballot initiative establishing independent redistricting commission

A healthy majority of Utahns support a citizen initiative that would replace the Legislature's partisan redrawing of U.S. House and legislative districts with a bipartisan, independent commission, a new poll finds....

Rep. Mia Love wants probe of leaks about Russia investigation

Rep. Mia Love joined two other Republican members of Congress who want to know how the press got ahold of "privileged information" leaked from a closed-door interview of Donald Trump Jr. earlier this month....

Lee says he'll vote for tax overhaul package

Put Sen. Mike Lee in the "yes" column on the GOP tax overhaul package....

Trump judicial nominee, a BYU grad, withdraws due to embarrassing video

Remember the cringe-worthy video from last week showing one of Trump's judicial nominees struggling to answer basic questions about courtroom procedure during a Senate confirmation hearing? That nominee withdrew his name from consideration on Monday....

Hatch denies 'Corker kickback' to sell him on tax overhaul

Sen. Orrin Hatch is pushing back against speculation a concession was inserted in the GOP tax overhaul plan specifically to win the support of Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker....

Weekly survey: Rank the top Utah political news stories of 2017

It's time to pick the top Utah political news stories of 2017. Make your picks now....

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Policy News

New data shows Utah's criminal justice system on the right track
A new report by the Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice (CCJJ) confirms Utah's criminal justice reforms are on the right track....

Utah Diesel Technician Pathways Program shifts Into high gear
The Governor's Office of Economic Development announced the expansion of the Utah Diesel Technician (Tech) Pathways program to include Alpine, Nebo and Provo school districts....

Governor appoints Brody Keisel to the Sixth District Juvenile Court
Gov. Gary R. Herbert has appointed Brody Keisel as a judge on the Sixth District Juvenile Court....

Fox files: 'Best practices'
We were honored this week to have Kenny McDonald, the President and CEO of Columbus 2020, join us for a best practices exchange. ...

EDCUtah's Public Development Department: Helping more Utah communities get short listed
Let's say you're the economic development director for a mid-sized Utah community and you've grabbed the attention of a major manufacturer....

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Local Headlines

Salt Lake Tribune

Op-ed: The disconnect in Utah's public education funding

Op-ed: Student-oriented education would make Utah the envy of all other states

Editorial: State agency should protect Utah employees from discrimination

Gehrke: The last thing we need is for our state school boards to be another partisan battlefield

Rolly: Americans should be frightened to have Hatch heading the Senate Finance Committee - the last Utahn to do so ruined the economy

Judicial nominee with Utah ties withdraws after fumbling questions at his confirmation

Amid complaints about $2 billion debt, UTA board approves borrowing $88.5 million more

Deseret News

Boyd Matheson: Watergate reporter's advice - restraint always works

Editorial: Bullying should never become a partisan issue

'Millions and millions' worth of drugs seized on Utah freeways in 2017

Salt Lake panel prefers 2030 Winter Olympics

Utah panel OKs bill protecting students' civil liberties

Hatch denies including tax provision to win Corker support


Webb announces retirement, Cache GOP chairman to run for District 5 (Logan Herald Journal)

National Headlines

Economic optimism soars, boosting Trump's approval rating (CNBC)

The secret backstory of how Obama let Hezbollah off the hook (Politico)

BuzzFeed Editor: 'All I Want For Christmas Is Full Communism Now' (The Wrap)

Linda Sarsour Accused Of Enabling Sexual Assault Against Woman Who Worked For Her (Daily Caller)

Under Trump, climate change not a national security threat (Associated Press)

Pelosi bails on tax cut protest after only handful of activists show up (American Mirror)

The Senate's Russia Investigation Is Now Looking Into Jill Stein (BuzzFeed)

Corker Says He Faced 'Tough' Decision in Supporting Republican Tax Bill (New York Times)

Navy pilot recalls encounter with UFO: 'I think it was not from this world' (ABC News)

Russia-Based Kaspersky Lab Sues Trump Administration For Banning Its Software (NPR)

Betsy DeVos speaks at the University of Baltimore's commencement, to protest and applause (Washington Post)

Wise Words

Best Interest

"An investment in knowledge pays the best interest." Benjamin Franklin

Lighter Side

Game Changer

"According to CNN, Anderson Cooper's tweet . . . . calling President Trump a pathetic loser came from someone using his assistant's phone that was left unattended at the gym. Wait a minute. You can have your assistant go to the gym for you? This is a game-changer! A game-changer!" Seth Meyers

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