I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Tuesday, August 28, 2018. 70 days until Election Day 2018. 798 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
After delay, Trump orders flags at half-staff for John McCain
The American flag atop the White House was raised on Monday morning, even as flags across the country and in the nation's capital were lowered out of respect for the late Sen. John McCain.
On a day when McCain's political allies and rivals came together to mourn the longtime lawmaker, who died at the age of 81 on Saturday, President Donald Trump seemed to be the only politician in America who refused to participate. Trump sent out only a cursory tweet sending his condolences to McCain's family; according to the Washington Post, he rejected a drafted statement praising McCain and calling him a "hero." Given multiple opportunities throughout the day on Monday, Trump declined to comment about the late senator.
A daylong spectacle also ensued when the White House flag was raised, after having been lowered over the weekend. The flag was only returned to half-staff in the afternoon, after Trump had received criticism from Republican senators ("that should have been automatic," Utah's Orrin Hatch said) and veterans groups ("the White House is openly showcasing its blatant disrespect for Senator McCain’s many decades of service," the head of AMVETS wrote).
In the end, Trump signed a formal proclamation later Monday lowering flags at all federal buildings through McCain's internment — as is customary for noteworthy Americans — and released a statement noting their "differences on policy and politics" but pronouncing his "respect" for McCain's service. At a dinner for evangelical leaders later in the evening, Trump also offered the nation's "hearts and prayers" to the McCain family, adding that "we very much appreciate everything Sen. McCain has done for our country."
The president also announced that he would be sending White House chief of staff John Kelly, Defense Secretary James Mattis, and national security adviser John Bolton to McCain's funeral. Trump himself was not invited.
Trump's statement and proclamation, however, came only after pressure mounted for hours for him to address McCain's death. According to the New York Times, Trump "stubbornly refused repeated requests from officials as senior as" Kelly and Vice President Mike Pence to issue a "formal and unifying statement"; per the Wall Street Journal, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders prodded Trump for days to sign the proclamation.
--- Key dynamic, via the Washington Post: "By day’s end, it had become clear that in his stubborn defiance of protocol, the president had single-handedly turned the death of McCain into yet another political firestorm that was all about Trump."
--- Recommended read: McCain's farewell statement to the American people.
Happening today: Florida, Arizona primaries
Florida and Arizona are set to hold primaries for senator and governor today. In Florida, Rep. Ron DeSantis has led the GOP gubernatorial primary since receiving President Trump's endorsement in June, despite establishment support going to state agricultural commissioner Adam Putnam. Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum, former Rep. Gwen Graham, billionaire Jeff Greene, and former Miami Beach mayor Philip Levine are competing for the Democratic nod; according to polls, Graham is the slight favorite. Meanwhile, Republican Gov. Rick Scott is virtually unopposed in seeking the nomination to face Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson in the fall.
In Arizona, Rep. Martha McSally is the frontrunner in the Republican Senate primary, although she faces two challenges from her right flank: former state Sen. Kelli Ward and former sheriff Joe Arpaio. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema is the expected Democratic nominee for the seat. Meanwhile, Republican Gov. Doug Ducey faces a long-shot primary challenge from former Secretary of State Ken Bennett; on the Democratic side, Arizona State University professor David Garcia and state Sen. Steve Farley are competing for the gubernatorial nod. Garcia, seen as the more progressive candidate, is leading in the polls.
Trade deal: President Trump moved closer to achieving a key campaign promise of revising the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) on Monday, as he announced a two-way deal with Mexico on trade. Trump threatened to leave Canada out of the revised deal: "I think we'll give them a chance to probably have a separate deal," he said. "We could have a separate deal, or we could put it into this deal." Trump sealed the deal with a phone call to Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, which quickly turned awkward after he invited reporters to listen in.
Manafort talks: Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort's defense team sought a deal with prosecutors ahead of a second trial next month, but the talks fell through, according to the Wall Street Journal. Manafort, who was convicted of eight counts last week, now faces charges of obstruction of justice, failure to register as a foreign agent, and conspiracy to launder money.
Trending: "In Defending Trump, Is Giuliani a Shrewd Tactician or 'Untethered'?" (New York Times)
White House schedule
POTUS: At 12:30pm, President Trump has lunch with Defense Secretary James Mattis. At 2:45pm, Trump meets with Gianni Infantino, the President of FIFA. The FIFA Congress voted in June to hold the 2026 World Cup in North America, after a joint bid by the United States, Canada, and Mexico.
VP: At 10:15am, Vice President Mike Pence participates in a phone call with President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan. At 2:50pm, Pence participates in the weekly Senate Republican policy lunch.
Senate: The Senate meets at 10am today. The chamber is scheduled to hold two roll call votes on nominations at 10:40am: on confirmation of Lynn A. Johnson to be Assistant Secretary for Family Support at the Department of Health and Human Services; and on advancing the nomination of Richard Clarida to be Vice Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.
The Senate will then recess from12:30pm to 2:15pm during weekly caucus meetings.
House: The lower chamber is not in session. However, the House Oversight and Judiciary Committees are set to hold a closed-door interview with Justice Department official Bruce Ohr, who has come under fire for his ties to Trump dossier author Christopher Steele and the firm that hired him, Fusion GPS.
Supreme Court schedule
The Supreme Court is on its summer recess.
*All times Eastern