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Wake Up To Politics - April 16, 2018

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Monday, April 16, 2018. 204 days until Election Day 2018. 932 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at gabe@wakeuptopolitics.com.

Comey calls Trump "morally unfit" in first televised interview

Former FBI Director James Comey's first televised interview since being fired by President Trump last year aired Sunday on ABC, ahead of the release of Comey's memoir, "A Higher Loyalty," on Tuesday. Here are some key quotes from Comey's five-hour sit-down with anchor George Stephanopolous:

--- On Trump's fitness: "I don't think he's medically unfit to be president. I think he's morally unfit to be president. A person who sees moral equivalence in Charlottesville, who talks about and treats women like they're pieces of meat, who lies constantly about matters big and small and insists the American people believe it, that person's not fit to be president of the United States, on moral grounds."

..."There's something more important than [specific policies] that should unite all of us, and that is our president must embody respect and adhere to the values that are at the core of this country. The most important being truth. This president is not able to do that. He is morally unfit to be president."

..."This president does not reflect the values of this country."

--- On whether Comey's claim that Trump asked him to drop the FBI investigation into Michael Flynn should be considered obstruction of justice: "Possibly. I mean, it's certainly some evidence of obstruction of justice."

--- On whether Trump should be impeached: "I hope not because I think impeaching and removing Donald Trump from office would let the American people off the hook and have something happen indirectly that I believe they're duty bound to do directly. People in this country need to stand up and go to the voting booth and vote their values."

--- On whether the Russians have "something" on Trump: "I think it's possible."

--- On salacious prostitute allegations in the Steele dossier: "I don't know whether the current president of the United States was with prostitutes peeing on each other in Moscow in 2013. It's possible, but I don't know."

--- On what would happen if Trump fires special counsel Robert Mueller: "It would, I hope, set off alarm bells that this is his most serious attack yet on the rule of law."

Comey will be nearly ubiquitous this week, with appearances scheduled for ABC's "Good Morning America," NPR's "Morning Edition" and "Fresh Air," CBS' "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" (Tuesday), ABC's "The View" (Wednesday), CNN's "The Lead with Jake Tapper" and MSNBC's "The Rachel Maddow Show" (Thursday), among others. His book sales — already expected to exceed 850,000 copies, according to CNN — are likely only boosted by a series of tweets by President Donald Trump, who took aim at Comey on Saturday morning.

"Slippery James Comey, a man who always ends up badly and out of whack (he is not smart!), will go down as the WORST FBI Director in history, by far!" Trump said. In other tweets that morning, he denied Comey's claim that he asked the FBI chief for personal loyalty ("I hardly even knew this guy," Trump tweeted), accused Comey of leaking classified information and lying to Congress (and suggested he should serve jail time), and criticized Comey's admission that polls were a factor in his decision to reopen the probe into Hillary Clinton's private email server (elaborating by calling him a "slimeball").

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Weekend Review

Other key things to know from this weekend...

--- The United States, United Kingdom, and France launched airstrikes against Syrian targets on Friday night to punish President Bashar al-Assad for a suspected chemical attack that killed more than 40 people. "Mission Accomplished!" President Trump tweeted after the strike, adopting the phrase that haunted George W. Bush during the Iraq War. It remains unclear whether the U.S. plans to stay in Syria: French president Emmanuel Macron said Sunday that he had "convinced" Trump to stay in Syria "for the long-term," although White House press secretary Sarah Sanders responded that Trump remains committed to withdrawing U.S. troops "as quickly as possible."

--- Former First Lady Barabra Bush, 92, is in "failing health" and "has decided not to seek additional medical treatment," instead focusing on "comfort care," her husband's office announced in a statement Sunday. "She is surrounded by a family she adores, and appreciates the many kind messages and especially the prayers she is receiving," the statement said. Bush is one of only two women in U.S. history to be the wife of one president (George H.W Bush) and the mother of another (George W. Bush). She and the elder Bush have been married for over 73 years, the longest union in presidential history.

Happening Today

Michael Cohen, President Trump's personal lawyer, is expected to appear in Manhattan federal court today for a 2pm hearing about his motion for a temporary restraining order. Cohen's motion would limit the ability of prosecutors to review material seized in the FBI raid of his home and office last week. The Justice Department responded to Cohen's motion in a Friday court filing, which confirmed that Cohen "is under criminal investigation," although it did not specify what he was being investigated for.

The hearing is further complicated by a Sunday night filing from a lawyer for President Trump, which sought to allow the president to review the seized materials before federal investigators.

And one more twist: adult film star Stormy Daniels, who Cohen paid $130,000 in 2016 in exchange for her silence about an alleged affair with Trump, is set to attend the hearing.

Cohen faces legal questions on multiple fronts. On Friday, McClatchy reported that special counsel Robert Mueller has evidence that Cohen was in Prague during the 2016 election, which would partly confirm an allegation in the Steele dossier which Cohen continues to deny. In addition, this weekend, the Wall Street Journal reported on a $1.6 million settlement Cohen negotiated with a former Playboy model on behalf of GOP fundraiser Elliott Broidy, who was forced to resign as RNC deputy finance chairman on Friday.

According to the New York Times, President Trump's advisers have concluded that the criminal probe into Cohen "poses a greater and more imminent threat to the president than even the special counsel's investigation."

The United States will announce new economic sanctions today to punish Russia today for enabling Assad's government in Syria, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley said in an interview on CBS' "Face the Nation." "Everyone is going to feel it at this point," Haley said, referring to consequences faced by Assad's allies.

--- Related: "Trump, a reluctant hawk, has battled his top aides on Russia and lost" (Washington Post)

President Trump touches down in Florida today, where he will spend the bulk of the week. Trump hosts a small business roundtable promoting tax reform in Hialeah, Florida (near Miami) at 12:40pm. He will then depart for his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida. Trump will host Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Mar-a-Lago later this week.

*All times Eastern