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Wake Up To Politics - August 28, 2017

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It's Monday, August 28, 2017. 435 days until Election Day 2018. 1,164 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!

Developing: Hurricane Harvey ravages Texas

Flooding continues in Houston, Texas and the surrounding area in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, a Category 4 cyclone that made landfall on Friday. Harvey, the strongest hurricane to hit the United States in over a dozen years, is now giving ways to record-setting rainfall that is putting about 13 million people in flood watches.

The natural disaster has been a key test for President Donald Trump, who monitored the hurricane from Camp David over the weekend. Trump signed a Disaster Declarations for Texas on Friday, making federal funding available to the state; the White House has announced plans for the President to visit the area on Tuesday. He tweeted a number of times on the situation Sunday, while also drawing fire for tweeting about a supporter's book, his 2016 victory in MIssouri, his proposed border wall, and NAFTA negotiations in between:

  • "Many people are now saying that this is the worst storm/hurricane they have ever seen. Good news is that we have great talent on the ground."
  • "Wow - Now experts are calling #Harvey a once in 500 year flood! We have an all out effort going, and going well!"
  • "HISTORIC rainfall in Houston, and all over Texas. Floods are unprecedented, and more rain coming. Spirit of the people is incredible.Thanks!

Weekend Review: The news dump to end all news dumps

As many were watching Hurricane Harvey on Friday night, a cascade of news stories came from the White House. Here's what you need to know from the weekend:

  • Trump pardons Arpaio President Donald Trump pardoned former Maricopa County, Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was facing possible jail time after being convicted of criminal contempt of court last month for ignoring a court order to halt police practices found to be racial profiling.
  • Arpaio, who served as sheriff from 1993 until being defeated in his re-election bid last year, has long attracted national attention for a string of controversies, from keeping inmates in jails found to have unconstitutionally harsh conditions to conducting "immigration raids" in Latino neighborhoods.
  • "Throughout his time as Sheriff, Arpaio continued his life’s work of protecting the public from the scourges of crime and illegal immigration," the White House said in a statement announcing the pardon. "Sheriff Joe Arpaio is now eighty-five years old, and after more than fifty years of admirable service to our Nation, he is worthy candidate for a Presidential pardon."
  • Trump added in a tweet: "I am pleased to inform you that I have just granted a full Pardon to 85 year old American patriot Sheriff Joe Arpaio. He kept Arizona safe!" Arpaio was an early supporter of Trump's presidential bid, with the candidate crediting the sheriff for his Arizona primary victory in a March 2016 tweet and inviting him to speak at the Republican National Convention. The two are allies dating back to their shared days on the forefront of the "birther" movement, with Arpaio receiving congratulations from Trump for investigating President Obama's birth certificate.
  • The pardon sparked criticism from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, including Arizona's two Republican senators and other GOP leaders:
  • Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), tweet: "Regarding the Arpaio pardon, I would have preferred that the President honor the judicial process and let it take its course."
  • Sen. John McCain (R-AZ): "The President has the authority to make this pardon, but doing so at this time undermines his claim for the respect of rule of law as Mr. Arpaio has shown no remorse for his actions."
  • House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), statement by spokesperson: "The Speaker does not agree with this decision."
  • But some Arizona Republicans cheered Trump's move, which was celebrated by many in his base:
  • Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), tweet: "Just received word that Sheriff Joe Arpaio won a pardon from @POTUS. The Rule of Law still stands."
  • Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), statement: "The President brought justice to a situation where the Obama administration had attempted to destroy a political opponent."
  • Trump orders Transgender military ban President Trump signed a memorandum banning transgender individuals from enlisting in the military, following a series of tweets last month announcing plans to do so. The directive also prohibits the use of Pentagon resources for medical treatments for transgender people currently serving in the military, although it gives the Secretary of Defense discretion over whether they should be able to continue serving.
  • The new policy will take effect on March 23, 2018, the deadline for the Secretaries of Defense and Homeland Security to submit implementation plans to the President
  • Many Democrats slammed Trump for the ban, which they called discriminatory:
  • Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), statement: "If you are willing to risk your life for our country and you can do the job, you should be able to serve—no matter your gender identity or sexual orientation. Anything else is not just discriminatory, it is disruptive to our military and it is counterproductive to our national security."
  • House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), statement: "Prejudice, not the national defense, is behind President Trump's cruel decision to kick transgender troops out of the military."
  • Gorka exits White House Sebastiaan Gorka, a Deputy Assistant to President Donald Trump and White House counterterrorism aide, left his post on Friday, although controversy persists as to what happened.
  • Gorka's exit was first reported by The Federalist, which quoted from a Gorka-signed resignation letter. "[G]iven recent events, it is clear to me that forces that do not support the MAGA promise are – for now – ascendant within the White House,” the letter reads. “As a result, the best and most effective way I can support you, Mr. President, is from outside the People’s House.”
  • However, the White House denied that Gorka's resignation was voluntary. "Sebastian Gorka did not resign, but I can confirm he no longer works at the White House," a White House official told reporters anonymously.
  • Before joining the Trump Administration, Gorka was the national security editor at Breitbart News, following the outlet's executive chairman Steve Bannon to the White House. Gorka's exit came exactly one week after Bannon reclaimed his post atop Breitbart, where Gorka is now set to return. Both claimed to resign, but their ousters were seen as likely since Chief of Staff John Kelly arrived at the White House.

The President's Schedule

President Donald Trump returned from Camp David on Sunday afternoon, after monitoring Hurricane Harvey from the presidential retreat over the weekend. He was joined by First Lady Melania Trump, their son Barron, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner (the President's daughter and son-in-law, as well as top White House advisers) and their three children. Trump spends today at the White House, receiving briefings and meeting with Cabinet officials before holding a press conference.

At 10:30am, President Trump will receive his daily intelligence briefing in the Oval Office. At 11:30am, will receive a national security briefing.

At 12:30pm, Trump will have lunch with Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in the Private Dining Room. The lunch comes one day after Axios reported that the President "has been growing increasingly frustrated" with Tillerson, who has been slow to staff the State Department and has reportedly butted heads with Trump over his approach to Qatar, sanctions against Venezuela, and Iran's nuclear program, among other issues. Their relationship is only likely to worsen in light of Tillerson's comments yesterday on "Fox News Sunday," when the Secretary was asked about Trump's response to Charlottesville and his values. "The President speaks for himself," Tillerson responded. Axios' Jonathan Swan called it a "jaw-dropping moment."

At 2pm, President Trump will meet with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in the Oval Office.

At 3:20pm, Trump will meet with President Sauli Niinistö of Finland. At 3:35, the two Presidents will hold an expanded bilateral meeting; at 4:20pm, they will hold a joint press conference in the East Room. According to Finland Today, a number of issues are on the agenda, including the situation in the Baltic Sea, the NATO alliance, and relationships with Russia. The two Presidents spoke on the phone in December 2016, but are meeting for the first time today. The press conference will be Trump's first public remarks since Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas, and he is expected to address the situation, according to RealClearPolitics correspondent Alexis Simendinger.

Happening Today

  • Trump Administration to return military gear to police The Trump Administration is planning to lift a ban on surplus military equipment being transferred to police departments, which was enacted in a 2015 executive order by President Barack Obama after the militarized police response to the Ferguson protests caused controversy. USA TODAY was first to report the plans, which have since been confirmed by other news outlets.
  • Attorney General Jeff Sessions is expected to outline the changes in an address to the Fraternal Order of Police conference in Nashville today.
  • Court Report: Travel ban oral arguments The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals will hold a 5pm hearing in Seattle today to clarify the Supreme Court's June ruling allowing President Trump's travel ban to temporarily go into effect. "The Nine" included an exception for immigrants with "bona fide relationships" in the United States, which the Trump Administration interpreted as only immediate relatives, but a Hawaii federal judge widened to include aunts, uncles, first cousins, grandparents, and grandchildren, while also ruling that refugees who were set to settle in the U.S. could do so. The Supreme Court then weighed in again, allowing only grandparents from the Hawaii judge's expanded definition and ruling against the acceptance of the refugees.
  • Both sides in "Hawaii vs. Trump" will offer their arguments today before a panel of three judges who will offer further clarification on the scope of the Supreme Court ruling. The high court has scheduled oral arguments on the executive order for October 10.
  • 2020 Central: Garcetti to Manchester Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti (D) will visit the "first-in-the-nation" primary state today to campaign for Manchester, New Hampshire mayoral candidate Joyce Craig, sparking speculation that he may wage a presidential run in 2020. Garcetti spent the weekend in the Hamptons at a fundraiser hosted by billionaire donor Ronald Perelman.


Developments in the Russia investigation reported over the weekend:

  • "Mueller Seeks Grand Jury Testimony from PR Execs Who Worked With Manafort," NBC on Friday "Special Counsel Robert Mueller issued grand jury subpoenas in recent days seeking testimony from public relations executives who worked on an international campaign organized by Paul Manafort, people directly familiar with the matter told NBC News."
  • "This is the first public indication that Mueller's investigation is beginning to compel witness testimony before the grand jury — a significant milestone in an inquiry that is examining the conduct of President Donald Trump and his son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, among others. It is also further indication that Manafort, Trump's onetime campaign chairman, could be in serious legal jeopardy."
  • "Special Counsel Examines Possible Role Flynn Played in Seeking Clinton Emails From Hackers," Wall Street Journal on Friday "Special counsel Robert Mueller is examining what role, if any, former national security adviser Mike Flynn may have played in a private effort to obtain Hillary Clinton’s emails from Russian hackers, according to people familiar with the matter."
  • "The effort to seek out hackers who were believed to have stolen Mrs. Clinton’s emails, first reported by The Wall Street Journal, was led by a longtime Republican activist, Peter W. Smith. In correspondence and conversations with his colleagues, Mr. Smith portrayed Mr. Flynn as an ally in those efforts and implied that other senior Trump campaign officials were coordinating with him, which they have denied. He also named Mr. Flynn’s consulting firm and his son in the correspondence and conversations."
  • "Trump’s business sought deal on a Trump Tower in Moscow while he ran for president," Washington Post on Sunday "While Donald Trump was running for president in late 2015 and early 2016, his company was pursuing a plan to develop a massive Trump Tower in Moscow, according to several people familiar with the proposal and new records reviewed by Trump Organization lawyers."
  • "As part of the discussions, a Russian-born real estate developer urged Trump to come to Moscow to tout the proposal and suggested that he could get President Vladimir Putin to say 'great things' about Trump, according to several people who have been briefed on his correspondence."