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Wake Up To Politics - August 13, 2018

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Monday, August 13, 2018. 85 days until Election Day 2018. 813 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at gabe@wakeuptopolitics.com.

Editor's Note

Hi, everyone! Thank you so much for your patience and understanding over the past two and a half months while I was on summer break. It feels great to be back writing Wake Up To Politics again; I can't wait to return to my longtime mission of delivering comprehensive, but concise and understandable, reports on the latest news in U.S. politics to your inbox each and every weekday morning. As the midterm elections creep near, the next few months promise to be interesting — and I'm looking forward to covering it all.

Note: WUTP will be sent a little later in the morning this week, but I'll be returning to my normal send time of 7:30am Central Time late next week when school starts up again.

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And, as always, if you enjoy Wake Up To Politics, please spread the word: forward it to your friends and tell them to sign up at wakeuptopolitics.com/subscribe! And now... the news:

Omarosa grabs attention ahead of book release

Omarosa Manigault Newman, the former reality TV star turned Trump White House aide who is now promoting the publication of a forthcoming book, has begun releasing secret recordings from her time in the West Wing to support her account of interactions with the president and his top aides.

In an appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday, Manigault Newman revealed a tape that she claims was recorded as White House chief of staff John Kelly was firing her in the Situation Room late last year. In the recording, Kelly is heard saying that her exit could be "a friendly departure," to avoid "any type of difficulty in the future relative to your reputation," a comment that Manigault Newman says she interpreted as a threat.

In a statement responding to the tape, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders blasted Manigault Newman for recording a conversation in the Situation Room, which is a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF), where cell phones are prohibited. "The very idea a staff member would sneak a recording device into the White House Situation Room, shows a blatant disregard for our national security – and then to brag about it on national television further proves the lack of character and integrity of this disgruntled former White House employee,” Sanders said. According to ABC News, the White House is exploring "legal options to stop [Manigault Newman] from releasing more tapes and to punish her for secretly recording her conversation with Chief of Staff Gen. John Kelly"; national security experts say the recording constitutes a breach of protocol, and potentially, of the law.

However, Manigault Newman released another recording this morning: a conversation between her and President Trump, which she says took place a day after her dismissal in December 2017. In the exchange, which was played on NBC's "Today" show, Trump appears unaware that his longtime friend was fired, saying that "nobody even told me about it." He adds, "I don't love you leaving at all."  

Manigault Newman's book, "Unhinged," is set to be published on Tuesday. According to the Washington Post, Manigault Newman calls Trump a "racist, misogynist and bigot" in the book, while painting him as mentally unstable. She also claims to have been offered a $15,000-a-month contract to work for the Trump campaign after leaving the White House, which came with a nondisclosure agreement that would have prohibited her from speaking publicly about the Trump family. In addition, Manigault Newman describes her quest for alleged "Apprentice" tapes in which the president can be heard saying the N-word; in interviews, Manigault Newman has claimed that she has heard such a tape, but has yet to provide evidence of its existence.

"Unhinged" will be the first memoir from the Trump White House to be openly critical of the president. It marks a reversal for Manigault Newman, who entered the West Wing after more than a decade of friendship with Trump, having appeared on the first season of "The Apprentice" in 2004, as well as many of its spin-offs. She worked at the Trump Organization before signing on to the Trump campaign as African-American outreach director in July 2016; at the White House, she served as communications director for the Office of Public Liasion, receiving the highest salary ($179,700) offered to White House employees.

The White House has said her book "is riddled with lies and false accusations"; asked about it over the weekend, Trump called Manigault Newman a "lowlife."

--- Just in: President Trump tweeted about Manigault Newman this morning, calling her "Wacky Omarosa, who got fired 3 times on the Apprentice, now got fired for the last time." Trump added that "she begged me for a job, tears in her eyes" and that "people in the White House hated her." The president also says that "she was vicious, but not smart," "nasty to people & would constantly miss meetings & work," and "only said GREAT things about me - until she got fired!"

The Rundown

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) on Sunday denied allegations that he abused a former girlfriend. A Facebook post by the son of his former girlfriend Karen Monahan alleges that video exists of Ellison "dragging my mama off the bed by her feet, screaming and calling her a 'fucking bitch'"; in a statement, the Minnesota Democrat says he and Monahan were in a "long-term relationship" until 2016, but denied the video's existence, saying he "never behaved in this way, and any characterization otherwise is false." Ellison, the deputy chair of the Democratic National Committee, is currently running to serve as Attorney General of Minnesota; he faces four challengers for the Democratic nomination for the post in primary on Tuesday.

Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY) suspended his re-election bid on Saturday, days after federal prosecutors charged him with insider trading. Collins, the first member of Congress to endorse then-candidate Trump in 2016, had initially said he would still seek a fourth term, but said in a statement over the weekend that it was "in the best interests" of his constitutions, as well as "the Republican Party and President Trump's agenda," that he step aside. Collins was accused last week of taking advantage of his seat on the board of Innate Immunotherapeutics, telling his son and others about the results of an unsuccessful scientific trial before they became public, allowing his family members to then sell their shares in the company. According to New York law, to remove Collins' name from the ballot, the congressman would have to die, run for a different office, or be disqualified; per CNN, GOP officials are considering nominating Collins for a town clerkship, which would allow a different Republican to take his place on the congressional ballot.

Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani told the Wall Street Journal on Sunday that the president remains open to sitting down for an interview with special counsel Robert Mueller, but said he wouldn't do so after September 1. Giuliani said any later date would interfere with the midterm elections. The president's legal team and the special counsel's prosecutors have been engaged in months-long negotiations over a presidential interview. Last week, the Trump team proposed to Mueller that questions in an interview be limited to alleged Russia collusion in the 2016 campaign, and not touch on potential obstruction of justice committed after he became president.

Inside Trumpworld: Good reads from over the weekend...

"‘A natural’: Donald Trump Jr. emerges as a campaign star, despite Russia baggage" (Washington Post)

"‘Working for one guy’: Bill Shine’s journey from Ailes enforcer to Trump producer" (Washington Post) "Trump’s diplomatic learning curve: Time zones, ‘Nambia’ and ‘Nipple’" (Politico)

Today in Washington

President Trump ends his "working vacation" in Bedminster, New Jersey today. At 2:30pm, he is set to sign the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019, the annual defense policy bill named this year for Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who Trump has needled in the past. The president will attend two fundraisers later this afternoon in Utica, New York before arriving back at the White House at 8:05pm.

Both houses of Congress are on recess today.

The trial of Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who has been indicted by special counsel Mueller on 18 counts of filing false tax returns, failing to report foreign bank accounts, and bank fraud, picks up at 1pm today. According to Politico Playbook, the special counsel's prosecutors are expected to rest their case today after calling one or two more witnesses; the Manfort defense will then begin. Closing arguments in the trial could begin as early as Tuesday, with a verdict possible this week.

--- Recommend read: "The Rise and Fall of Paul Manafort: Greed, Deception and Ego" (New York Times)

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