Wake Up To Politics - June 5, 2017
I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It's Monday, June 5, 2017. 519 days until Election Day 2018. 1,247 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Tell your friends to sign up to receive the newsletter in their inbox at wakeuptopolitics.com/subscribe!
Welcome to the first Summer Break 2017 edition of Wake Up To Politics. Thank you for all your notes wishing me well on final exams, and thank you for subscribing if this is your first edition. I am still blown away by all of those who have joined the mailing list, which is now 33,000+ strong!
Trump Response to London Attacks Draw Criticism Less than two weeks after a suicide bombing at a Manchester concert, England was rocked by a terrorist attack yet again on Saturday. Seven people were killed and 48 were wounded after three men drove into pedestrians on the London Bridge before leaving their van to stab consumers in Borough Market. The three assailants were shot and killed by police; ISIS reportedly claimed responsibility for the attack in a message on their official news outlet.
The White House released just one official statement related to the attacks, a readout of President Donald Trump's telephone call with United Kingdom Prime Minister Theresa May. According to the statement, Trump "offered his condolences" and "praised the heroic response of police and other first responders," while also offering "the full support of the United States Government" in the aftermath of the attacks.
However, President Trump himself has issued a number of additional responses since, all in 140 characters or less. Once again, as the entire world was on edge, the President took to Twitter to express his true feelings on the attacks. He has tweeted or retweeted 10 times since the attacks, each missive related to terrorism:
Trump began the days-long tweetstorm by labeling the incident as a terrorist attack before police declared it as such in a Saturday afternoon retweet of the Drudge Report, a conservative website.
- 6:10pm on Saturday: "Fears of new terror attack after van 'mows down 20 people' on London Bridge..." (retweet of @DRUDGE_REPORT)
The President also offered his support to the United Kingdom via Twitter.
- 7:24pm on Saturday: "Whatever the United States can do to help out in London and the U. K., we will be there - WE ARE WITH YOU. GOD BLESS!"
He then began a call for increased security in the United States and around the world, criticizing London mayor Sadiq Khan just hours after his city was attacked. Trump took the mayor's remarks out of context; Khan had urged people not to be alarmed by the increased police presence, not by the attack itself.
- 7:19am on Sunday. "We must stop being politically correct and get down to the business of security for our people. If we don't get smart it will only get worse
- 7:31 am on Sunday: "At least 7 dead and 48 wounded in terror attack and Mayor of London says there is 'no reason to be alarmed!'"
- 7:43am on Sunday: "Do you notice we are not having a gun debate right now? That's because they used knives and a truck!"
Finally, President Trump also mentioned his executive order on immigration in the hours after the attack, a theme he returned to in the days following.
- 7:17pm on Saturday: "We need to be smart, vigilant and tough. We need the courts to give us back our rights. We need the Travel Ban as an extra level of safety!"
- 6:25am on Monday: "People, the lawyers and the courts can call it whatever they want, but I am calling it what we need and what it is, a TRAVEL BAN!"
- 6:29am on Monday: "The Justice Dept. should have stayed with the original Travel Ban, not the watered down, politically correct version they submitted to S.C."
- 6:37am on Monday: "The Justice Dept. should ask for an expedited hearing of the watered down Travel Ban before the Supreme Court - & seek much tougher version!"
- 6:44am on Monday: "In any event we are EXTREME VETTING people coming into the U.S. in order to help keep our country safe. The courts are slow and political!"
Trump was immediately criticized, for politicizing the attack and for the language he used. The President referred to the executive order as a "Travel Ban," despite his spokespeople insisting it is not a ban, which will almost certainly be used to counter the government's case in the Supreme Court. Trump also seemed to blame the Justice Department for abandoning his original January executive order in favor of the revised March order, which restricted immigration from six Muslim-majority countries instead of seven. The President signed both executive orders himself.
Not for the first time, the President waded into an ongoing court battle between U.S. judges and his Administration, denouncing his own lawyers for not requesting an expedited hearing and going after the courts for their handling of the cases involving the travel ban.
The revised executive order has never gone into effect, as it was blocked by district courts in Hawaii and Washington. Last month, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals blocked the ban, sending the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. On Thursday, the acting Solicitor General filed the government's briefs in the case, requesting oral arguments take place next fall but demanding that the order be allowed to take effect in the mean time.
--- Do the Tweets Matter? White House counselor Kellyanne Conway berated the media on NBC'S "TODAY" this morning for "this obsession with covering everything he says on Twitter and very little of what he does as president." However, the President's Twitter activity are not just tweets, they are statements from the leader of the free world. Trump's tweets do make a difference, and will likely change the tenor of political discussions for the entire week.
The White House had planned to focus on infrastructure this week (more below), which will surely be overshadowed. Both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue will be affected, with Congress' agenda expected to be sidelined now that GOP lawmakers will need to face questions over Trump's tweets.
Finally, courts ruling on Trump's executive orders have already used his tweets and other public statements in the past, and these could be easily used to prove the intent of the executive order was to ban certain people, despite the White House's claims.
The President's Schedule President Trump is set to begin a week-long infrastructure push today, announcing the Air Traffic Control Reform Initiative in the East Room. Trump will unveil a plan to privatize air traffic control in the United States, separating the operations from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and creating a nonprofit group.
Major airline executives and House Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) will join Trump for the announcement; according to the Washington Post, Shuster introduced a similar plan during the Clinton Administration. Although it faced opposition from many Republican lawmakers then, the White House is hoping a Republican president can change their minds. The Post reported that Trump's plan "will be largely based" on Shuster's proposal.
Throughout the week, the President will continue to hold events to roll out a $1 trillion infrastructure plan, which will limit the federal government's role in favor of investments by states, cities, and private businesses, according to the New York Times.
Later today, Trump will have lunch with Vice President Mike Pence and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and will host a reception for Gold Star families.
Also today: Deputy White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders will lead the daily press briefing, amid rampant speculation that she will permanently take over briefing duties for press secretary Sean Spicer.
--- Distraction Theater? The White House's sudden focus on infrastructure is widely seen as an attempt to distract from ousted FBI director James Comey's widely-anticipated appearance before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday. Washington is awaiting his testimony with bated breath, speculating whether he will merely confirm previous reports or offer new information relating to the Russia probe and/or his firing from the FBI.
Trump's travel to Ohio on Wednesday and to the Transportation Department headquarters on Friday are potentially meant to distract from the Comey hearing. Another even bigger distraction could be in the works: according to ABC, there has been discussion of Trump visiting London later in the week to pay his respects.
Today in Congress The Senate returns from a 10-day recess today; the chamber has one vote scheduled, on a resolution commemorating the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem.
Meanwhile, the House remains in recess until Tuesday.
The Associated Press noted today the uncertainty of the GOP legislative agenda as lawmakers return to Capitol Hill, "without a single major legislative achievement" to boast for after six months in power. According to the AP, seven weeks remain before the five-week August recess, crunch time for the GOP to agree on health care and tax plans, and to pass a funding plan to avert a government shutdown in September.