5 min read

Wake Up To Politics - August 15, 2017




I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It's Tuesday, August 15, 2017. 448 days until Election Day 2018. 1,176 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!

Trump Condemns White Supremacists After Days of Pressure President Donald Trump delivered an unscheduled statement from the White House on Monday, labeling the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville over the weekend as "an egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence" and condemning it "in the strongest possible terms."

"Racism is evil," Trump said. "And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans." The President also mourned the deaths of Heather Heyer, who was run over by a car while protesting the white supremacist presence, and two Virginia state troopers — three individuals, he said, who "embody the goodness and decency of our nation."

Trump called for Americans to "love each other, show affection for each other, and unite together in condemnation of hatred, bigotry, and violence," adding that "those who spread violence in the name of bigotry strike at the very core of America.

The President's remarks specifically condemning the groups rallying in Charlottesville followed days of hesitation, and widely-panned comments on Saturday blaming "many sides" for the violence that broke out. His Monday statement came only after pressure emerged from figures in and outside of his own party to "call evil by its name," as Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) urged him on Twitter.

Trump's slow response to Charlottesville also provoked criticism in the business community, and led to the resignation of three CEOs from President Trump's American Manufacturing Council: Merck's Kenneth Frazier, Under Armour's Kevin Plank, and Intel's Brian Krzanich. Trump took to Twitter to attack Frazier following his resignation, posting: "Now that Ken Frazier of Merck Pharma has resigned from President's Manufacturing Council,he will have more time to LOWER RIPOFF DRUG PRICES!"

In the hours after his clarifying statement, the President returned to waging his drawn-out campaign against the media. "Made additional remarks on Charlottesville and realize once again that the #Fake News Media will never be satisfied...truly bad people!" he tweeted. Later Monday, he retweeted a post on the lack of media coverage of recent shootings in Chicago which had been originally shared by Jack Posobiec, a prominent Pizzagate and Seth Rich conspiracy theorist with ties to the alt-right; on Tuesday morning, he retweeted an image of a train running over a CNN reporter. The White House told reporters that the latter retweet, quickly deleted, was "inadvertently posted."'

However, Trump's Twitter activity adds fuel to an Associated Press report that he was "reluctant" to speak about Charlottesville on Monday, as urged by chief of staff John Kelly and other aides. According to CNN, comments on the economy that came at the top of his statement were added at the President's insistence. The New York Times, meanwhile, reported that White House chief strategist Steve Bannon has advised Trump "not to criticize far-right activists too severely for fear of antagonizing a small but energetic part of his base." Bannon's ties to the alt-right have led to increased calls for his ouster since the violence in Charlottesville, from Democrats including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) as well as Trump advisers such as former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci, longtime Trump hand Roger Stone, and — according to the Times — media mogul Rupert Murdoch.

Second-Place Likely for Incumbent in Alabama Senate Primary Interim Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL) faces two primary opponents in a race to decide who will carry the Republican banner in the special election to fill the former Senate seat of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Strange has coveted endorsements from President Trump, who is widely popular in Alabama; Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY); his colleague Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL); and the National Rifle Association. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) boasts the support of many top conservatives, such as House Freedom Caucus chairman Mark Meadows (R-NC), influential right-wing groups including the Senate Conservatives Found and FreedomWorks, and commentators Mark Levin, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, and Ann Coulter.

Yet neither Strange's presidential backing nor Brooks' conservative support are resulting into a lead in the pools. Instead, former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore is expected to come in first place in the primary, although he may be unable to clinch the majority support needed to avoid a runoff. Moore is a controversial figure, removed from office in 2003 after controversially installing a monument of the Ten Commandments outside his courthouse, elected again in 2013, and suspended in 2016 for refusing to comply with the U.S. Supreme Court's legalization of same-sex marraige. He resigned earlier this year after being found guilty of six ethical violations.

Strange has benefited from multiple favorable tweets and a robocall from President Trump, while the other candidates have vyed to make the case that they are more supportive of the Trump agenda, even without his backing. McConnell's support for Strange may backfire, having become a prominent talking point for Brooks' anti-establishment message. Strange served as Attorney General of Alabama for six years before being appointed to serve in February to fill Sessions' seat until the special election.

The RealClearPolitics polling average shows Moore leading with 32.2% of the vote, to Strange's 28.4%. Brooks is in third place, with 17%. If no candidate reachs the 50% threshold, the top two vote-getters will compete for the GOP nomination in a September runoff.

On the Democratic side, the field is led by former U.S. Attorney Doug Jones, who is supported by former Vice President Joe Bien, Congressional Black Caucus chairman Cedric Richmond, Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), and other leading figures.

The President's Schedule President Trump continues his "working vacation" from his signature skyscraper, Trump Tower in Manhattan, today. He has just two events on his public schedule: at 3pm, he will participate in an infrastructure discussion from his penthouse residence and sign an Executive Order "establishing discipline and accountability in the environmental review and permitting process for infrastructure projects, before heading down the gilded elevator to deliver a 3:45pm statement on infrastructure from the Trump Tower lobby.