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Wake Up To Politics - August 21, 2018

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Tuesday, August 21, 2018. 77 days until Election Day 2018. 805 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at gabe@wakeuptopolitics.com.

Trump to Reuters: "I could run" Mueller probe

In an interview with Reuters on Monday, President Donald Trump said he wasn't planning on interfering with special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation — but reserved the right to do so if he felt it necessary.

"I can go in, and I could do whatever — I could run it if I want. But I decided to stay out,” Trump said. “I’m totally allowed to be involved if I wanted to be. So far, I haven’t chosen to be involved. I’ll stay out.”

It is unclear how Trump would be able to "run" the investigation, which is partly investigating him for potential obstruction of justice, as well as his aides and associates for potential collusion with Russia in the 2016 presidential election.

The president also expressed concern in the interview about sitting down with Mueller, pointing to the possibility that his testimony conflicts with that of former FBI director James Comey. "So if I say something and [Comey] says something, and it's my word against his,and he's best friends with Mueller, so Mueller might say: 'Well, I believe Comey,' and even if I'm telling the truth, that makes me a liar. That's no good."

Trump's concerns echoed his lawyer Rudy Giuliani's comments on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday; Giuliani said that Trump and Comey would both be offering a "version of the truth," and that it would be impossible to know whose is entirely correct. "Truth isn't truth," he declared. Trump and Giuliani have both said that they fear a Mueller interview would be a "perjury trap," where the special counsel charges the president with perjury if he sides with a conflicting account of an event; it remains unclear whether Trump will sit down with Mueller.

Notably, Trump also seemed to cast doubt once again on whether Russia interfered in the 2016 election, calling Mueller's probe a "disgrace" that plays "right into the Russians' [hands] — if it was Russia."

--- Other highlights from Trump's Reuters interview: Trump said he would "most likely" meet with North Korea's Kim Jong Un again... Trump called it "very dangerous" for Twitter and Facebook to silence voices on their platforms... Trump said he was "not thrilled" with the Federal Reserve's raising interest rates. Asked if he was happy with his choice of Jerome Powell as the Fed's chair, Trump responded: "I'll let you know in seven years."

--- Russia probe latest: Trump continues to antagonize former CIA chief John Brennan in a "proxy fight" over the Russia investigation. After revoking Brennan's security clearance, the president tweeted on Monday that he "hope[s]" Brennan sues over the revocation, saying that it would "then be very easy" to obtain documents from his tenure showing "how he was involved with the Mueller Rigged Witch Hunt." Trump has also continued to threaten other former intelligence officials, tweeting on Monday about potentially pulling the security clearance of former CIA official Phil Mudd after a firey CNN appearance, and adding this morning that that former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper is "being nice to me so he doesn't lose his Security Clearance." The New Yorker also reported Monday that Trump and his advisers mulled denying former president Barack Obama's intelligence briefings last year; Trump tweeted this morning that the report was "fake news."

--- New: "Microsoft says it has found a Russian operation targeting U.S. political institutions" (Washington Post)

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Primary preview: Alaska, Wyoming

Primary voters in two states, Alaska and Wyoming, head to the polls today. Here's a preview of the races to watch:

Alaska (polls close at 12 am or 1am)

  • Governor: Incumbent Bill Walker, the only currently-serving independent governor in the United States, faces both Democratic and Republican challengers in his bid for re-election. Former Sen. Mark Begich is expected to win the Democratic nomination, while former state Sen. Mike Dunleavy is favored to win the Republican nod. Dunleavy faces former Lt. Gov Mead Treadwell in today's primary, but is expected to win with the support of former Gov. Sean Parnell (R-AK) and Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK).

Wyoming (polls close at 9pm)

  • Governor: Republicans will vote in a crowded gubernatorial primary, with six candidates running to replace term-limited Gov. Matt Mead (R-WY). The leading candidates include Republican megadonor Foster Friess, State Treasurer Mark Gordon, attorney Harriet Hageman, and businessman Sam Galeotos. Friess, who is backed by Donald Trump Jr. and other well-known Republicans, has invested $2.4 million in his campaign, although it may not be enough to beat Gordon, the only candidate with significant government experience. The winner will face state Rep. Mary Throne, the likely Democratic nominee.
  • Senate: Sen. John Barrasso faces businessman Dave Dodson in the Republican primary. Dodson has put $1 million of his own money into the campaign (and received the endorsement of Wyoming's largest paper, the Casper Star-Tribune), but he faces a popular, two-term senator endorsed by President Trump. The GOP nominee will face Democratic businessman Gary Trauner.

Manafort trial, Day 16

The trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort continues today, as the jury reconvenes at 9:30am for their fourth full day of deliberations and the wait for a verdict continues.

White House schedule

POTUS: At 11am, President Donald Trump receives his intelligence briefing. At 12pm, he meets with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. At 12:30pm, he has lunch with Secretary Pompeo and Nikki Haley, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. At 2:30pm, Trump meets with labor union leaders.

Later today, President Trump travels to Charleston, Virginia. At 6pm, he participates in a roundtable with supporters in Charleston, followed by a 7pm "Make America Great Again" rally. At the rally, Trump is expected to campaign for state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R-WV), who is challenging Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) in November, and tout his rollback of the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, which restricts greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants. Under the Trump Administration's coming changes, states would have broad authority to set restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions.

Following the rally, Trump will return to Washington, D.C.

VP: At 11:30am, Vice President Mike Pence meets with Jeremy Hunt, the United Kingdom's Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, who took office last month after Boris Johnson's resignation. At 12:45pm, Pence participates in the Senate Republican Conference's weekly Policy Lunch at the U.S. Capitol.

Congress schedule

Senate: The Senate convenes at 10am today. Following Leader remarks, the chamber will resume consideration of the $857 billion "minibus" spending package, which combines the appropriations measures for the Departments of Defense, Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education.

At 12:10pm, the Senate will vote on two bipartisan amendments to the package: one requiring a Comptroller General report on military electronic health records, and another increasing funding for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

The chamber will then recess until 2:15pm for weekly caucus meetings.

--- Also today... Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh meets with five key senators: Maine Republican Susan Collins, one of the few GOP senators wavering on his confirmation; Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Missouri Democrat Claire McCaskill, and Judiciary Committee Democrats Patrick Leahy (VT), Amy Klobuchar (MN), and Mazie Hirono (HI). McCaskill is one of the most vulnerable Democrats up for re-election in November; her Supreme Court vote will be a key factor in the race.

House: The lower chamber is not in session today.

Supreme Court schedule

The Supreme Court is on its summer recess.

*All times Eastern

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