Tuesday, February 21, 2017
623 Days until Election Day 2018
1,351 Days until Election Day 2020
Good morning! Reporting from WUTP world HQ (in my bedroom), I'm Gabe Fleisher: this is your wake up call.
White House Watch
- Trump Taps McMaster as National Security Advisor President Donald Trump announced his new National Security Advisor on Monday, installing Lt. Gen.. H.R. McMaster in the position held by Trump's first choice, Michael Flynn, for just 24 days. Flynn was asked to resign last week amid reports that he misled White House officials about his contacts with Russian officials during the presidential transition.
- The position is an important one in the White House, advising the President on national security and coordinating between a number of different agencies. No Senate confirmation is needed for the National Security Advisor.
- The President made his announcement from the "Winter White House," his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, flanked by McMaster and National Security Council chief of staff Keith Kellogg, who had been serving as National Security Advisor in the interim. In brief remarks to reports, Trump called McMaster "a man of tremendous talent and tremendous experience," noting that "he is highly respected by everyone in the military."
- McMaster also spoke, thanking President Trump for the opportunity to "be able to continue serving our nation." In a statement released by the White House, the General added: "I will work tirelessly in this new role to assist the President as he addresses the complex and growing threats our country is facing around the globe.”
- According to the Washington Post, McMaster is a "widely respected and fiercely outspoken military strategist who was recognized for his battlefield leadership during both the Persian Gulf War and the Iraq War," although he has "spent virtually no time at the Pentagon or in Washington," which could prove troublesome. In addition to his own wartime service, McMaster is known for his 1997 book, "Dereliction of Duty," a critical look at Lyndon Johnson and Robert McNamara's leadership of the Vietnam War.
- McMaster has served in the Army for 33 years, and will continue as an active three-star general as he moves to the White House. Other National Security Advisors, such as Ford's Brent Scowcroft and Reagan's Colin Powell, have also remained in the military. In addition, much of Trump's national security team has been drawn from the military, such as Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, and Kellogg (as well as Flynn), all retired generals.
- President Trump spent the weekend interviewing candidates to succeed Flynn, after offering the job to retired Navy Vice Adm. Robert Harward, who turned him down. Harward's statement said that he could not take the position due to "financial and family issues," although it was widely reported that he did not want to join the chaotic Trump Administration.
- Another of Harward's worries was staffing: Trump has installed a number of less experienced hands at the National Security Council, although White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters that the President "gave full authority for McMaster to hire whatever staff he sees fit."
- Introducing McMaster on Monday, Trump also spoke of another candidate he interviewed for the post, John Bolton, who served as Ambassador to the United Nations under George W. Bush. "We had some really good meetings with him. Knows a lot. He had a good number of ideas that I must tell you I agree very much with," Trump said, announcing that " we’ll be asking him to work with us in a somewhat different capacity."
- According to the New York Times, McMaster "has no links to [Trump] and is not thought of as being as ideological as [Flynn]," who advised the President during the campaign. McMaster and Flynn are especially different when it comes to Russia: while the latter was very well-connected in the country and had raised dropping sanctions, the former has written about Russia as a threat. The Times reported on Monday that many congressional Republicans, especially Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), lobbied for McMaster to be chosen.
- "H.R. McMaster is one of the finest combat leaders of our generation and also a great strategic mind," Cotton said in a statement. "He is a true warrior scholar." McMaster was also supported by Senate Armed Services Committee chairman John McCain, who later praised the general as "an outstanding choice." McCain's statement came after a weekend of criticizing Trump, calling his an "administration in disarray" and comparing his attacks on the press to the actions of a dictator.
- However, after McMaster's selection on Monday, the Arizonan said that he "could not imagine a better, more capable national security team than the one we have right now." The choice was also praised by Democrats, who remain determined to investigate Flynn. "I worked [with] Gen.McMaster on how we educate our troops. He's a brilliant, reasoned leader who understands both hard & soft power," former Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY) said on Twitter.
- The President's Schedule President Trump returned to Washington last night from Mar-a-Lago, where he raised controversy by played golf, despite past criticisms of former President Barack Obama's playing the game and claims from his staff that he spent the whole weekend in meetings.
- At 8:30am, the President will visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture, which was dedicated as part of the Smithsonian Institution last September. According to Politico Playbook, Trump will be joined at the museum by his daughter Ivanka; Housing and Urban Development Secretary nominee Ben Carson and his wife Candy; Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), the only African-American Republican currently in the Senate; Alveda Celeste King, a Trump supporter and niece of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; the museum's director Lonnie Bunch; and Smithsonian Institution secretary David Skorton.
- At 10:30am, President Trump will receive his daily intelligence briefing in the Oval Office.
- At 12:30pm, he will have lunch with real estate investor Tom Barrack, a longtime friend who chaired Trump's Presidential Inaugural Committee, in the Presidential Dining Room
- Listen Learn more about the Trump/Barrack relationship in this podcast from NBC's Chuck Todd, who interviews Barrack and gains some interesting insight about the President. Listen here.
- At 4pm, President Trump will receive an NSC briefing in the Situation Room.
- Finally, at 6:30pm, he will have dinner with Vice President Mike Pence, who just returned from his first international trip (to Brussels).
Capitol Hill News
- Today in Congress Neither house of Congress is in session today, as they leave town for "Presidents' Day recess," their first recess of the new year (apparently unaware that it is not Presidents' Week). Unlike most congressional recesses, this week may grab as many headlines as most that Congress is in session.
- Progressive groups, including MoveOn, Planned Parenthood, and Priorities USA, are dubbing this "Resistance Recess," encouraging supporters to attend town halls and protest GOP lawmakers' support of President Trump at town halls. Their plans are reminiscent of Republican protests at Democratic town halls in the summer of 2009, when the "Tea Party" was born in response to the introduction of the Affordable Care Act.
- Guessing Game Out of 365 days in the year, how many days do you think the House is scheduled to be in session in 2017? Don't look this one up, just click on your best guess below:
- How many days will the U.S. House be in session in 2017?
- *|SURVEY: 0-50|*
- *|SURVEY: 50-100|*
- *|SURVEY: 100-150|*
- *|SURVEY: 150-200|*
- *|SURVEY: 200-250|*
- *|SURVEY: 250-300|*
- *|SURVEY: 300-350|*
- *|SURVEY: 350-365|*
- This is a new experiment: the first WUTP poll of its kind. Click on your guess, and I'll share the results (and true answer) tomorrow.
*All Times Eastern
For more on Wake Up To Politics, listen to Gabe on NPR's "Talk of the Nation", St. Louis Public Radio, the Political Junkie podcast, and on StoryCorps; watch Gabe on MSNBC's "Up with Steve Kornacki"; and read about Gabe in Politico, the Washington Post, Independent Journal, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Salon, the Globe, and the St. Louis Jewish Light.