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Wake Up To Politics - August 14, 2017




I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It's Monday, August 14, 2017. 449 days until Election Day 2018. 1,177 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 inbox at wakeuptopolitics.com/subscribe!

I'm back! After a long summer hiatus, Wake Up To Politics has returned. I hope everyone had a restful past few weeks, and maybe even a chance to unplug from the news. I'm very excited to be writing the newsletter again, and looking forward to helping you stay on top of the never-ending news cycle. I don't start school until late next week, so the newsletter will still be sent a little later than usual, before adjusting back to the normal 8am.

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Summer Summary A review of what happened while I was gone (a lot!) and where we are now...

  • North Korea Kim Jong-un has spent the summer improving its nuclear arsenal and conducting intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) tests. The United Nations responded by unanimously imposing sanctions on North Korea, which only escalated Kim's threats to the United States.
  • The dictator has announced potential plans to attack U.S. bases on Guam; President Donald Trump last week, in turn, warned that he would meet these attacks "with fire, fury, and frankly power, the likes of which the world has never seen before."
  • Health Care Senate Republicans unveiled their Obamacare repeal-and-replace bill, the Better Care Reconciliation Act, in late June. The measure, crafted behind closed doors by a group of Republicans from across the ideological spectrum, included Medicaid cuts, an end to Obamacare's individual mandate, a restructured tax credit system for buying health insurance, the offer of waivers for states to drop Obamacare's Essential Health Benefits, and other provisions, according to the New York Times.
  • In late July, the bill (with an added amendment by Sen. Ted Cruz to allow for "bare-bones insurance plans") failed in a 43-57 vote, with nine Republicans - conservatives and moderates - voting "no."
  • The next day, the Senate voted on a new bill, the Obamacare Repeal Reconciliation Act, which would have repealed Obamacare by phasing out most of its major provisions, without offering a full replacement. The measure failed 45-55, with seven Republicans opposed.
  • Finally, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) offered the stripped-down Health Care Freedom Act, dubbed "skinny repeal." The bill only repealed Obamacare provisions opposed by nearly all Republicans, such as the individual mandate, but making no changes to Medicaid and other portions of the law. In a dramatic vote with Vice President Mike Pence on hand to break a potential tie, moderate Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins were joined by Sen. John McCain, who had been diagnosed with brain cancer just days prior, to defeat the plan, 49-51.
  • Russia Investigation Congressional committees and Special Counsel Robert Mueller continued their probes of the ties between Russia and the Trump campaign. New questions were raised in early July after Donald Trump, Jr. released an email chain showing he met with a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower after being offered "very high level and sensitive information" that would incriminate Hillary Clinton as "part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump."
  • Trump, Jr. has denied any wrongdoing, saying that the meeting focused on adoptions and no worthwhile information was shared.
  • In recent weeks, Mueller has continued to step up his probe, with reports emerging in recent weeks that he impaneled a grand jury in Washington, D.C. and received a search warrant to raid the home of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
  • White House Staff Shake-Up Meanwhile, the White House saw significant turnover throughout the summer, following the appointment of Wall Street financier Anthony Scaramucci as Communications Director in late July. Later that day, White House press secretary Sean Spicer announced plans to resign in protest, elevating his deputy Sarah Huckabee Sanders to succeed him. A week later, President Trump removed White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, appointing Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly to the top post. Three days later, Kelly fired Scaramucci, ending the resignation dominoes.
  • Rumors of a larger shake-up continue, with knives out for Chief Strategist Steve Bannon on the left and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster on the right. Trump himself also antagonized Attorney General Jeff Sessions over the summer, seen by many as an effort to force his resignation.

Trump Criticized for Charlottesville Response Hundreds of white nationalists descended on Charlottesville, Virginia on Sunday to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee. A state of emergency was declared as clashes broke out between the protestors and a group of counter-protestors; a 20-year-old Ohio man drove his car into the counter-protestors, killing a 32-year-old Charlottesville resident and injuring 19 more.

President Donald Trump, not usually at a loss for words or shy to offer his blistering opinions, has drawn criticism after stopping short of condemning white supremacists for their actions, instead blaming "this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides" in a statement on Sunday. Nearly all prominent Republicans used stronger language than Trump, and some of have even publicly urged him to go further.

"Mr. President - we must call evil by its name," Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) tweeted. "These were white supremacists and this was domestic terrorism." Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) added: "Very important for the nation to hear @potus describe events in #Charlottesville for what they are, a terror attack by #whitesupremacists."

Other Administration figures have aimed to clarify Trump's comments, including Vice President Mike Pence and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who also opened a Justice Department civil rights investigation. Calls for Trump to amend his comments grew so large that the White House released a clarifying statement to reporters, saying that the President "condemns all forms of violence, bigotry and hatred and of course that includes white Supremacists, KKK, neo-Nazi and all extremist groups."

The statement was attributed to an unnamed official; Trump has yet to specifically condemn those groups. While Trump is often quick to criticize people and groups he objects to, his silence on the subject of white supremacists was also seen on the campaign trail, when he was slow to disavow the endorsement of neo-Nazi leader David Duke, who was in Charlottesville this weekend. Already on Monday, the President has tweeted four times, including condemnations of "Obstructionist Democrats" and Merck CEO Ken Frazier, who resigned from the President's American Manufacturing Council in the wake of Trump's response to Charlottesville.

The President's Schedule With the White House under renovation, President Donald Trump has spent this week on vacation at his resort in Bedminster, New Jersey. However, Trump will take a break today, making a short return to Washington, D.C. before leaving again to continue his break at Trump Tower in New York.

Trump departed Bedminster at 9am Eastern Time, arriving at the White House at 10:35am. At 11:15am, he will meet with Chief of Staff Kelly in the Treaty Room, before sitting down with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI director Chris Wray at 11:30am to discuss Charlottesville. This is Sessions' first meeting with Trump since the President tweeted his frustrations with the law enforcement official; it is Wray's first White House meeting since being confirmed as Trump's replacement for James Comey.

At 3pm, the President will sign a memorandum "addressing China's laws, policies, practices, and actions related to intellectual property, innovation, and technology" in the Diplomatic Reception Room. At 3:45pm, he will meet with the National Economic Council in the Blue Room.

At 7pm, Trump is scheduled to depart the White House for New York, where he touches down at 8:45pm. He is set to arrive at Trump Tower at 9:10pm, his first visit to his premier property since being sworn in as President. At 9:30pm, the President will speak with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe by telephone.

Trump's schedule does not include time set aside for answering press questions, despite his promise last week of a "pretty big press conference on Monday."

Today in Congress Both houses of Congress are on summer recess; they will return on Tuesday, September 5.