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Wake Up To Politics - April 9, 2018

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Monday, April 9, 2018. 211 days until Election Day 2018. 939 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 inboxes at wakeuptopolitics.com/subscribe!

Weekend Review

President Donald Trump tweeted 14 times over the weekend, and once already this morning. Here's what the president is talking about, plus context...

On trade:

President Trump once again bemoaned Chinese tariffs this morning, referring to "STUPID TRADE" practices that have been "going on for years." Trump's tweet comes amid a potential "trade war" with China: the president has threatened to impose tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese imports and ordered the U.S. Trade Representative to study tariffs on an additional $100 billion worth of imports from China, while the Chinese government has announced plans to impose tariffs on $50 billion in U.S. products in response.

His Sunday tweet, expressing hope that China would "take down its Trade Barriers" and that he and Chinese president Xi Jinping will "always be friends, no matter what happens with our dispute on trade," seemed to be something of a de-escalation in rhetoric, as his aides sought to tamp down concerns.

"I don't expect there will be a trade war," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on CBS' "Face the Nation" on Sunday. "We're listening to the Chinese. We're willing to work with them," White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said on NBC's "Meet the Press," while noting that "we're clear-eyed about this" and "we want fair and reciprocal trade."

"The problem here is China," newly-minted National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow said on CNN's "State of the Union." "It is not President Trump."

On Syria:

President Trump responded to reports of a suspected chemical attack in Syria on Sunday that left at least 42 people dead, taking the rare step of criticizing Russian president Vladimir Putin for supporting Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, who he referred to as "Animal Assad."

Trump now faces the question of how he will respond to the chemical attack; almost exactly a year ago, the U.S. launched tomahawk missiles at a Syrian air base after accusing Assad of carrying out a chemical attack that killed at least 86 people.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said in a statement Sunday that Assad was "emboldened by American inaction" following Trump's announcement last month that the U.S. would "be coming out of Syria, like, very soon."

On Kelly:

The Washington Post published a deep dive into "the downward arc of [chief of staff John] Kelly’s eight months in the White House" on Sunday, reporting on the increasingly turbulent relationship between President Trump and Kelly and the latter's repeated threats to resign as he has lost influence in recent weeks. Trump denied the story, calling it "just another hit job."

On Pruitt:

President Trump defended Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt on Saturday, insisting that Pruitt is "doing a great job" and dismissing reports on Pruitt's extravagant spending and $50-a-night apartment rental from the wife of an energy lobbyist. According to the Wall Street Journal, White House chief of staff John Kelly and other aides have urged Trump to remove Pruitt, but so far the president is siding with his conservative allies who have vouched for the EPA chief's effectiveness.

According to the Associated Press, Pruitt met with the president on Friday "to make his case for why he should remain in his post amid a stream of questions about his ethical standing." At least for now, Trump appears to be keeping him.

On Trump Tower fire:

President Trump praised the construction of his Manhattan skyrise after a fire broke out in the building that left one man dead and injured six firefighters.

On the Justice Department:

Once again, President Trump criticized his own Justice Department on Saturday, this time for missing a House Judiciary Committee subpoena deadline requesting documents on the FBI's investigation of Hillary Clinton's private server and potential FISA abuses against the Trump campaign. The DOJ is expected to turn over documents to the panel today.


President Trump holds an 11:30am Cabinet meeting, followed by a 6pm briefing from senior military leadership. At 7:15pm, he has dinner with senior military leadership. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders holds an on-camera press briefing at 2:30pm.

Today is former UN Ambassador John Bolton's first day as President Trump's third National Security Advisor. According to CNN, Bolton will preside over a meeting of top administration officials today in order to present options for potential military action in Syria to President Trump. Recommended read: "In John Bolton, Trump Finds a Fellow Political Blowtorch. Will Foreign Policy Burn?" (New York Times)

--- The United Nations Security Council will hold two emergency meetings today: one requested by Russia on "international threats to peace and security," and another requested by the United States and eight other countries on the chemical weapons attack in Syria.

The Department of Justice is expected to name John Lausch, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Illinois, to oversee the FBI's production of documents to the House Judiciary Committee, following President Trump's accusation that the DOJ was "stalling" their release. The DOJ is expected to turn over 1,000 pages of information today.

Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL) is expected to announce his Senate campaign today, challenging Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) in one of the most closely-watched and expensive races of the year. Scott will formally launch his campaign in Orlando today, in a speech expected to criticize "career politicians" and call for congressional term limits. Related: "GOP increasingly fears loss of House, focuses on saving Senate majority" (Washington Post)

The Senate meets at 3pm today. The chamber will resume consideration of the nomination of Claria Horn Boom to be U.S. District Judge for the Eastern and Western Districts of Kentucky. A cloture vote on Boom will be held at 5:30pm. Back from recess: "Republicans return to work with Trump wish list in mind" (Associated Press)

No votes are expected in the House today.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg meets with lawmakers today, according to Reuters, ahead of his two days of congressional testimony on the Cambridge Analytica data breach.

The Supreme Court is not scheduled to meet today.

*All times Eastern