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Wake Up To Politics - April 27, 2018

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Friday, April 27, 2018. 193 days until Election Day 2018. 921 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at gabe@wakeuptopolitics.com.

Breaking: Korean War to end

In a historic summit, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met at the border village of Panmunjom on Friday, shaking hands and agreeing to end the Korean War. The "Panmunjom Declaration for Peace, Prosperity and Unification on the Korean Peninsula," which they both signed, promises to formally end the war — which was fought from 1950 to 1953, but technically continues as no peace treaty was ever signed — and "confirmed the common goal of realizing, through complete denuclearization, a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula."

The meeting marked the first time a North Korean leader had ever set foot in the South.

--- President Trump reacts on Twitter: "KOREAN WAR TO END! The United States, and all of its GREAT people, should be very proud of what is now taking place in Korea!"

--- Reminder: Planning is currently underway for a meeting between President Trump and Kim Jong Un.

Friday Roundup


--- President Trump spoke live over the phone with the hosts of "Fox & Friends" on Thursday morning, touching on a range of topics in a freewheeling interview. Trump added further difficulties for his legal team in discussing some of the investigations engulfing his orbit...

  • On Michael Cohen, his personal lawyer: "As a percentage of my legal work, [Cohen handled] a tiny, tiny little fraction." (Trump's statement undercut his own attorneys' argument in an ongoing case about the documents seized in a FBI raid of Cohen's home and office. Within hours, the comments were cited by prosecutors in a new court filing, bolstering their case that the documents are not protected by attorney-client privilege, since Trump himself claimed that Cohen barely acted as his attorney.)
  • On Cohen and Stormy Daniels: "He represents me, like with this crazy Stormy Daniels deal, he represented me." (This is the first time that Trump has acknowledged Cohen arranged the $130,000 payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels, after previously saying he had been unaware.)
  • On the Russia probe: “They have a witch hunt against the President of the United States going on, I have taken the position, and I don't have to take this position and maybe I'll change, that I will not be involved with the Justice Department... I may change my mind at some point because what is going on is a disgrace."

--- More on the Trump-Cohen relationship: "'Boss, I Miss You So Much': The Awkward Exile of Michael Cohen" (Wall Street Journal)

The Administration

--- Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt testified before two House committees on Thursday, facing aggressive questioning on his ethical lapses. "I have nothing to hide," Pruitt insisted, passing off the blame for luxurious expenses such as his $43,000 privacy booth and more than $100,000 in first-class flights. Pruitt did acknowledge that he had authorized his chief of staff to grant pay increases to top aides, despite telling Fox News earlier this month that he had been unaware of the raises. The EPA chief did maintain on Thursday that he "was not aware of the amount, nor was I aware" that the raises were awarded over the White House's objections.

--- After Dr. Ronny Jackson's withdrawal on Thursday, the president still has to name another nominee to take over the Department of Veterans Affairs. Per NBC's Hallie Jackson, former Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL), who led the House Veterans Affairs Committee from 2011 to 2017, "appears to be emerging as a frontrunner.

--- Two must-reads closing out the Jackson debacle: "How a week of triumph for Trump was convulsed by chaos and contradiction" (Washington Post), on how the controversies facing Trump's Cabinet members and nominees dominated the president's week... "For Many, Life in Trump's Orbit Ends in a Crash Landing (New York Times), on the many damaged reputations of people Trump has chosen to fill his administration.


-- The Senate confirmed foreign policy hawk Mike Pompeo to be Secretary of State on Thursday, in a 57-42 vote. Seven Democrats joined all present Republicans in supporting Pompeo's elevation from CIA Director to head of the State Department. Pompeo was sworn in by Supreme Court Justice Sam Alito just after his confirmation, and has already embarked on his first foreign trip as the nation's top diplomat, flying to Brussels to attend a NATO summit. He is also slated to visit Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Jordan in the coming days.

--- The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday approved a bipartisan bill to protect special counsel Robert Muller. The panel voted 14-7, with Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley (IA), Thom Tillis (NC), Lindsey Graham (SC), and Jeff Flake (AZ) joining every committee Democrat in supporting the legislation. The bill would allow Mueller to challenge his firing in court if his probe is ended. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has promised not to bring the bill to the Senate floor.

--- Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) was "severely admonished" by the Senate Ethics Committee on Thursday, as the panel said that Menendez violated federal law and Senate rules by failing to disclose expensive gifts from Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen, while using his position as a senator to "advance Dr. Melgen's personal and business interests." Menendez had previously been indicted for the same actions, but his trial ended with a deadlocked jury mistrial late last year. "Your actions reflected discredit upon the Senate," the committee said, ordering Menendez to pay back the gifts.


--- West Virginia Republican Senate candidate Don Blakenship has heightened his war with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), suggesting that McConnell is "soft on China" because the father of his wife, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, "is a wealthy Chinaperson." McConnell is firing back, dismissing the notion as "ridiculous" and putting his weight behind ads in the West Virginia primary attempting to sink Blankenship, who longtime McConnell adviser Josh Holmes said on Thursday is "mentally ill."

Weekend Preview

--- The White House Correspondents Association's annual dinner is on Saturday. President Trump will not be in attendance; like last year, he will hold a campaign rally to counter-program the event, although White House press secretary Sarah Sanders and other Trump aides are expected to attend the dinner. The dinner will begin at 9:30pm, headlined by comedian Michelle Wolff. Trump's rally will be at 7pm in Washington, Michigan.

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The President's schedule

President Trump meets today with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. According to the White House, "the two leaders will reaffirm the German-American partnership—a bedrock of the transatlantic relationship and the NATO Alliance—as both nations work together to address a broad range of geopolitical and economic challenges." Much less personal chemistry is expected to be on display than during French President Emmanuel Macron's visit earlier this week. Full schedule...

  • 10:30am: President Trump hosts a celebration for Team USA Olympians.
  • 11:40am: President Trump participates in the arrival of Chancellor Merkel.
  • 11:45am: President Trump meets with Chancellor Merkel.
  • 12:15pm: President Trump hosts a working lunch with Chancellor Merkel
  • 1:50pm: President Trump hosts a joint press conference with Chancellor Merkel.
  • 2:20pm: President Trump participates in the departure of Chancellor Merkel.
  • 2:40pm: President Trump hosts the 2018 White House Correspondents' Association Scholarship Winners.

Today in Congress

--- The House votes today on legislation reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for six years.

--- The Senate is not in session.

*All times Eastern