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Wake Up To Politics - August 30, 2017

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It's Wednesday, August 30, 2017. 433 days until Election Day 2018. 1,162 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!

The President's Schedule: Trump to Springfield, MO

At 10:30am EDT, President Donald Trump will receive his daily intelligence briefing in the Oval Office. At 11am, he will meet with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, his point man for renegotiations of NAFTA, which Mexico's Economy Minister called a "roller coaster" on Tuesday. At 11:20am, the President will depart the White House for Springfield, Missouri, where he will arrive at 12:55pm CDT.

At 1:30pm, Trump is scheduled to participate in a "tax reform kickoff event" in Springfield. For the first time, the President will directly jump into the debate over taxes, launching the first in a series of events to sell his plan for a tax code rewrite. The problem? Trump doesn't have a plan. According to the Wall Street Journal, President Trump "isn't expected to offer new policy details" in his Springfield remarks, although he will "argue that a tax plan that significantly cuts business taxes would benefit middle-class workers."

Trump is expected to occupy more of a "cheerleader" role in the tax reform process, holding events to discuss "his 'vision' for spurring job creation and economic growth by cutting rates and revising the tax code," without outlining specifics, according to the Associated Press. In July, the White House agreed to a broad framework on tax policy with Republican lawmakers; the President is now allowing congressional leaders to hash out the details of the plan. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), House Ways and Means Committee chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and Senate Finance Committee chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) are taking the lead in crafting a bill.

Trump's address, which was penned by senior advisor Stephen Miller, will take place at a local manufacturer. The AP reports that the President will be joined by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and National Economic Council director Gary Cohn, who round out the "Big Six" negotiators who arrived at the GOP framework, as well as Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Small Business Administrator Linda McMahon, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), and Gov. Eric Greitens (R-MO).

At 2:35pm, President Trump will depart Springfield for Washington, D.C., arriving back at the White Houe at 6pm EDT.

Mattis Moving Forward with Trump Transgender Ban

In a statement on Tuesday, Defense Secretary James Mattis outlined his plan to implement President Trump's ban on transgender people serving in the military, which he signed last Friday. Mattis said that he will follow the order's directions to "develop a study and implementation plan, which will contain the steps that will promote military readiness, lethality, and unit cohesion, with due regard for budgetary constraints and consistent with applicable law," adding that Pentagon appointees yet to be confirmed by the Senate "will play an important role in this effort."

Mattis explained his plan to establish a panel of experts from the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security to set recommendations on the implementation of the ban. The agencies must have a plan sent to President Trump by February 21, according to the executive order. "Our focus must always be on what is best for the military's combat effectiveness leading to victory on the battlefield," Mattis said.

The Defense Secretary also offered guidance on transgender individuals currently serving in the military, saying that they could "remain in place" during the planning process. President Trump had left that question open to Mattis.

#PASEN: Barletta Announces Senate Bid

Rep. Lou Barletta (R-PA) on Tuesday announced plans to challenge Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) in 2018. Barletta, an early Trump supporter during the 2016 presidential primaries, launched his campaign with a video urging supporters to "join the effort to make Pennsylvania and America great again."

Barletta has represented the Keystone State's 11th congressional district since 2011, previously serving as Mayor of Hazelton. As Mayor, Barletta gained attention for his hardline stance on illegal immigration, introducing an ordinance punishing employers or landlords who hired or leased to illegal immigrants and another making English the town's official language.

He is the most prominent in a field of eight other candidates seeking to deny Casey a third term, including State Reps. Jim Christiana and Rick Saccone, real estate developer Jeff Bartos, and others.

  • New York Times: "Trump Republicans Invigorate, and Complicate, Party's Fight for Senate" A look at Barletta and other "Trump Republicans" who have announced or are toying with Senate runs, including Gov. Rick Scott in Florida, musician Kid Rock in Michigan, lawyer Danny Tarkanian in Nevada, former state senator Kelli Ward in Arizona, Gov. Paul LePage in Maine, and former Trump aide Corey Stewart in Virginia. Tarkanian and Ward are challenging incumbent Republican senators who have been critical of Trump; their campaigns are seen as potentially jeopardizing the party's chances in 2018.

Drip, Drip, Drip

As congressional investigations on the link between Russia and the Trump campaign continue, who might testify next?

  • SESSIONS Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) wrote to Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday, informing of plans to hold a Justice Department oversight hearing next month. Grassley asked for a response by Wednesday on Sessions' availability for the mornings of September 19, 27, and October 3.
  • Sessions would likely face questions on his interactions with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak: he denied any meeting with Russian officials during his January confirmation hearing, but changed his story in June testimony saying that he met Kislyak during the campaign, but not in his capacity as a top Trump adviser. The Washington Post reported last month that U.S. intelligence agencies intercepted Kislyak's accounts of his interactions with Sessions; according to the diplomat, he and the then-Senator did discuss "campaign-related matters."
  • TRUMP, JR. CNN reported on Tuesday that Donald Trump, Jr., the President's eldest son, has agreed to sit down for a closed-door transcribed interview with the Senate Judiciary Committee. The panel initially requested his testimony at an open hearing in July, which Trump, Jr. declined.
  • The son has emerged as a focus of probes into Trump-Russia ties in light of reports that he, Jared Kushner, and campaign chairman Paul Manafort met with Russian operatives at Trump Tower in June 2016.
  • SATER, and... TRUMP? Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA), a member of the House Intelligence Committee told Yahoo News on Tuesday that Russian-born Trump business associate Felix Sater, who was involved in plans to build a Trump Tower Moscow, is a "relevant witness" in the panel's investigation and may be called to testify.
  • Swalwell also said testimony from Trump himself "should be on the table," adding: "My belief is we have to hear from all relevant witnesses, and it does look like he is likely relevant."

Palace Intrigue: The Latest

  • America Magazine: "Sean Spicer finally gets to meet Pope Francis" "A group of legislators and politicians from around the world gathered in Italy this week for a meeting of the International Catholic Legislators Network, where they were received by Pope Francis at the Vatican. Among those gathered was Sean Spicer, the former White House press secretary who was by some accounts snubbed by President Trump in May.
  • "Mr. Spicer, a Catholic, had expressed a desire to meet Pope Francis, but he was left off the list of U.S. officials who accompanied the president to the Vatican."
  • Bloomberg: "Trump Punishes Longtime Aide After Angry Phoenix Speech, Sources Say" "Donald Trump was in a bad mood before he emerged for a confrontational speech in Arizona last week. TV and social media coverage showed that the site of his campaign rally, the Phoenix Convention Center, was less than full. Backstage, waiting in a room with a television monitor, Trump was displeased, one person familiar with the incident said: TV optics and crowd sizes are extremely important to the president."
  • "As his surrogates warmed up the audience, the expanse of shiny concrete eventually filled in with cheering Trump fans. But it was too late for a longtime Trump aide, George Gigicos, the former White House director of advance who had organized the event as a contractor to the Republican National Committee. Trump later had his top security aide, Keith Schiller, inform Gigicos that he’d never manage a Trump rally again, according to three people familiar with the matter."
  • "Gigicos, one of the four longest-serving political aides to the president, declined to comment."
  • (Crowd) Size Matters President Trump proved once again on Tuesday how much crowd sizes mean to him. "What a crowd, what a turnout," he said while addressing an audience at a fire station in Corpus Christi, Texas on Hurricane Harvey relief efforts.
  • Politico: "Trump unusually silent after aides challenge him" "President Donald Trump is not happy with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Gary Cohn, director of the National Economic Council, for publicly criticizing his response to violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. But it appears there is little he is planning to do about it, according to people who have spoken to him."
  • "...The president, whose approval ratings have dropped into the 30-percent range and who has lost a raft of senior staff members, is loath to get rid of anyone right now, one adviser said. Some close to Trump note that he needs Cohn and Tillerson, seen as stabilizing forces in his administration, more than they need him at this point."
  • Vanity Fair: "Exiles on Pennsylvania Avenue: How Jared and Ivanka Were Repelled by Washington's Elite" A long read on Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump's adventures in Washington