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Wake Up To Politics - August 26, 2019

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Monday, August 26, 2019. 161 days until the 2020 Iowa caucuses. 435 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at gabe@wakeuptopolitics.com.

Trump sends mixed signals on China trade war at G7 summit

Tensions between the United States and China continued to rise leading up to the annual G7 summit in Biarritz, France, but signs of a truce seemed to emerge at the international meeting this weekend.

The Chinese government announced new retaliatory tariffs on about $75 billion worth of U.S. goods on Friday; just before he left for the G7 summit, President Donald Trump responded in kind, announcing on Twitter that the U.S. would raise tariffs from 25% to 30% on $250 billion in Chinese goods, while also ordering companies to "immediately start looking for an alternative to China," although it was unclear if he had the power to do so.

"We're having a little spat with China and we'll win it," the president told reporters on Friday as he left for France. "We put a lot of tariffs on China today, as you know. They put some on us, we put a lot on them."

But upon his arrival at the G7, President Trump briefly seemed to express a rare emotion with respect to the ongoing trade dispute: regret. Asked by a reporter on Sunday if he had "second thoughts" about the escalating trade war, Trump replied: "Yeah, sure. Why not. Might as well. I have second thoughts about everything."

The White House soon scrambled to quell the international response to Trump's comments, which seemed to suggest that his stance on tariffs was softening. "His answer has been greatly misinterpreted," White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement, moving to ratchet tensions up instead of bringing them down. "President Trump responded in the affirmative - because he regrets not raising the tariffs higher."

However, the president has continued to send contradictory messages during the remainder of the summit, giving some in the international community hope as he once again appeared to move to a softer position. In remarks during a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel this morning, Trump praised Chinese President Xi Jinping as a "great leader," adding that the prospects for a trade deal between the two countries are greater than ever.

"You can say we're having very meaningful talks, much more meaningful than I would say at any time, frankly," Trump said. "Maybe I'm wrong, but we're in a stronger position now to do a deal, a fair deal for everyone."

At another bilateral meeting this morning, the president insisted that China urged U.S. officials to "get back to the table" in a phone call on Sunday evening. "They want to make a deal," Trump said. "That's a great thing." Further complicating matters, a spokesman for China's foreign ministry said he was "not aware of" such a phone call.

As tensions between China and the U.S. bounce up and down, the global economy hangs in the balance, with stock markets around the world closely tracking developments in the trade dispute.

After the markets ended Friday in a sharp drop amid new tariffs from both countries, U.S. stock futures have climbed this morning as President Trump struck a more positive note.

This year's G7 meeting has so far been a calmer affair than past international summits in the Trump era, with foreign leaders determined to avoid a blowup like Trump's abrupt departure from last year's summit in Canada, when he refused to sign the annual communiqué. (For the first time, this year's G7 summit is set to end without a communiqué being signed at all, an attempt by the French hosts to steer clear of tension with the United States.)

"Thus far, this has been really a great G7," Trump said on Sunday, "and I want to congratulate France and your president because they have really done a great job." The president even tamped down reports that he had been blindsided by a visit from Iran's foreign minister, telling reporters that French President Emmanuel Macron had warned him ahead of time. (Questions persist, however, over how much has been accomplished at the gathering.)

President Trump is already looking ahead to next year's G7 summit, which will be held in the United States. He said this morning that he has a location in mind: his own resort, Trump National Doral in Miami, Florida. Because he has not divested from his private business interests, such an arrangement would mean the president would personally profit off of the meeting of world leaders. "They love the location of the hotel," Trump said today. "We haven't found anything that's even close to competing with it."

Former Tea Party congressman launches Trump primary challenge

Former Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL) announced his 2020 presidential campaign on Sunday, becoming the second Republican to challenge President Trump in the GOP primaries.

"I'm going to run for president," he said in an interview on ABC News' "This Week," adding: "We've got a guy in the White House who’s unfit, completely unfit, to be president. And it stuns me that nobody stepped up, nobody in the Republican Party stepped up."

Walsh, a conservative radio host, was elected to Congress as part of the Tea Party wave in 2010 but left Washington in defeat two years later. He referred to President Trump as "a bigot" in the ABC News interview on Sunday, but Walsh has his own history of inflammatory comments, falsely asserting in 2016 that then-President Barack Obama was a Muslim.

Report: Trump has suggested nuking hurricances

"President Trump has suggested multiple times to senior Homeland Security and national security officials that they explore using nuclear bombs to stop hurricanes from hitting the United States," Axios reported Sunday.

According to the report, Trump has brought up the idea — which has been dismissed by scientists in the past — at least twice: in one hurricane briefing at the White House, causing the briefer to be "knocked back on his heels," and in another conversation with an administration official detailed in a 2017 National Security Council memo.

President Trump called the report "ridiculous" in a tweet this morning. "I never said this," he added. "Just more FAKE NEWS!"

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Today at the White House

--- At 8:45 p.m., President Trump participates in the closing session of the 45th annual Group of Seven (G7) Summit in Biarritz, France. (The G7 is an international organization made up of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union.) At 9:30 a.m., he participates in a joint press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron. At 10:35 a.m., President and First Lady Trump depart France; they will arrive at the White House at 8:30 p.m.

--- Vice President Mike Pence travels to Anderson, South Carolina. At 4:15 p.m., he tours Sargent Metal Fabricators, a local business. At 4:40 p.m., he delivers remarks at an event hosted by America First Policies, a pro-Trump group, on the economic impact of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), the president's proposed replacement for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). At 7:15 p.m., he delivers remarks at Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC)'s 6th annual Faith and Freedom BBQ.

Today on the trail

--- Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) holds a grassroots fundraiser in Albuquerque, New Mexico, at 7 p.m.

--- Former HUD Secretary Julián Castro travels to Las Vegas, Nevada, touring an after-school program for low-income students at 7 p.m. and joining local non-profits in providing necessities for homeless individuals at 10 p.m.

--- Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) visits New Hampshire, holding a discussion with rural leaders in Keene at 9:30 a.m., holding a meet and greet in Keene at 10 a.m., and a house party in Bedford at 5 p.m.

--- Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-TX) holds a town hall in Charleston, South Carolina, at 7 p.m.

--- Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) travels to South Carolina, holding a breakfast event in Greenville at 8 a.m., touring a local business in Laurens at 10 a.m., and visiting Allen University in Columbia at 1:15 p.m. He will then hold a town hall at Paine College in Augusta, Georgia, at 6 p.m.

--- Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) addresses the 76th  United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) National Convention in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, at 11 a.m.

--- Spiritual author Marianne Williamson travels to New Hampshire, holding a meet and greet in Littleton at 12 p.m., a meet and greet in Lancaster at 1:45 p.m., a rural business roundtable in Gorham at 3 p.m., and a town hall in Berlin at 5 p.m.

--- Entrepreneur Andrew Yang visits New Hampshire, meeting with a local fishing co-op in Portsmouth at 9 a.m., announcing his climate policy plan in Portsmouth at 10 a.m., holding an event with the Colleg Dems and College Republicans of the University of New Hampshire in Durham at 12 p.m., and a climate change town hall at Keene State College in Keene at 4:30 p.m.

*All times Eastern