I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Thursday, August 30, 2018. 68 days until Election Day 2018. 796 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As legal headaches mount, Trump doubles down
Just nine days ago, President Trump was facing a torrent of negative headlines amid the convictions of his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and his former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, on eight charges each. What has Trump done since to change the narrative? Mostly, he has doubled down on familiar tactics, increasingly taking to Twitter this week to attack his longtime targets in the media and his own government, as his legal headaches continue to mount.
The president has already tweeted about the press multiple times this morning. "I just cannot state strongly enough how totally dishonest much of the Media is," he said in one tweet. "Truth doesn't matter to them, they only have their hatred & agenda. This includes fake books, which come out about me all the time, always anonymous sources, and are pure fiction. Enemy of the People!" In two others, he personally targeted the heads of CNN ("Little Jeff Z has done a terrible job") and NBC News ("Andy Lack(y) is about to be fired").
On Wednesday, Trump also tweeted about legendary Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein ("a man who lives in the past and thinks like a degenerate fool"), one of the bylines on a CNN story that has come under fire recently, and criticized journalists' use of anonymous sources, implying that they do not exist.
Meanwhile, Trump's reliance on evidence-free claims has only continued as well. The president declared in a tweet on Tuesday that "Hillary Clinton's Emails, many of which are Classified Information, got hacked by China" — a claim that the FBI denies. And he has accused Google multiple times this week of bias, including in a video that purports to show the search engine promoting live streams of former President Barack Obama's State of the Union addresses but not President Trump's; the company responded with proof that it did, in fact, highlight Trump's 2018 speech as well.
And just a week after the Justice Department prosecuted the case against Manafort and struck a plea deal with Cohen, the president has also been unrelenting in his attacks on the DOJ. "How the hell is Bruce Ohr still employed at the Justice Department?" he tweeted Wednesday, referring to his new Russia probe target, a longtime DOJ official with ties to the author of the Trump dossier, Christopher Steele, and the firm that paid him, Fusion GPS.
In addition, the Washington Post reported earlier this week that Trump has "privately revived the idea of firing" Attorney General Jeff Sessions in conversations this month; according to Politico, he has also been personally lobbying Republican senators to turn on his AG.
According to reports, these renewed attacks come as Trump's inner circle is increasingly worried about what's to come. According to the Washington Post, the president's advisers and allies are fretting "that he has neither the staff nor the strategy to protect himself from a Democratic takeover of the House, which would empower the opposition party to shower the administration with subpoenas or even pursue impeachment charges."
Meanwhile, his in-house legal team is shrinking fast: President Trump announced on Twitter on Wednesday that White House Counsel Don McGahn will depart after the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Per the New York Times, "McGahn has long discussed his intention to leave at some tweet," but "the president made the declaration on Twitter without first informing" McGahn, who was taken by surprise. The announcement comes after reporting by the Times earlier this month on McGhan's extensive cooperation with special counsel Robert Mueller. According to a Wake Up To Politics analysis, McGahn follows eight other members of the White House counsel's office out the door, including three out of his four deputies.
According to the Post, the specter of impeachment continues to haunt the White House ("McGahn and other aides have invoked the prospect of impeachment to persuade the president not to take actions or behave in ways that they believe would hurt him"), but "Trump has not directed his lawyers or his political aides to prepare an action plan."
"Winter is coming," one Trump ally told the Post. "Assuming Democrats win the House, which we all believe is a very strong likelihood, the White House will be under siege. But it’s like tumbleweeds rolling down the halls over there. Nobody’s prepared for war.”
It is amid this backdrop — amping up attacks on the media and DOJ, as members of his counsel's office flood for the exits and his use of evidence-free claims continues — that President Trump travels to Evansville, Indiana today, for his favorite type of event: a campaign rally, when he often goes off-script to air a litany of grievances, a ready-made opportunity to present the lines of attack he's previewed this week to a prime-time audience.
New this morning... "National Enquirer Had Decades of Trump Dirt. He Wanted to Buy It All": "Federal investigators have provided ample evidence that President Trump was involved in deals to pay two women to keep them from speaking publicly before the 2016 election about affairs that they said they had with him. But it turns out that Mr. Trump wanted to go even further."
"He and his lawyer at the time, Michael D. Cohen, devised a plan to buy up all the dirt on Mr. Trump that the National Enquirer and its parent company had collected on him, dating back to the 1980s, according to several of Mr. Trump’s associates." (New York Times)
Rudy in Romania: "A letter that Rudolph W. Giuliani, one of President Trump’s personal attorneys, sent to Romanian officials opposing a corruption crackdown in that country has drawn the attention of the State Department and renewed questions about his continued work for foreign clients while representing the president." (Washington Post)
Marijuana legalization: "The White House has secretly amassed a committee of federal agencies from across the government to combat public support for marijuana and cast state legalization measures in a negative light, while attempting to portray the drug as a national threat." (BuzzFeed News)
TX-SEN: "Republicans are sounding the alarm about Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s closer-than-expected reelection contest, with an influential conservative group racing to his aid." (Politico)
Sexual harassment on campus: "Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is preparing new policies on campus sexual misconduct that would bolster the rights of students accused of assault, harassment or rape, reduce liability for institutions of higher education and encourage schools to provide more support for victims." (New York Times)
White House schedule
POTUS: President Donald Trump travels to Evansville, Indiana today. At 6:40pm, he hosts a roundtable with supporters in Evansville; at 7:40pm, he addresses a joint fundraising committee reception.
At 8:25pm, he headlines a Make America Great Again rally.
VP: Vice President Mike Pence travels to Minnesota and Wisconsin today. At 12:40pm, he will deliver keynote remarks at the American Legion's 100th National Convention in Minneapolis. At 3pm, he delivers remarks at a Minnesota Republican Party event. At 6:25pm, Pence speaks at a Milwaukee event for Wisconsin GOP Senate candidate Leah Vukmir.
Both houses of Congress are on recess.
Supreme Court schedule
The Supreme Court is on its summer recess.
*All times Eastern