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Wake Up To Politics - March 12, 2018

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Monday, March 12, 2018. 239 days until Election Day 2018. 967 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 inboxes at wakeuptopolitics.com/subscribe!

Trump announces school safety plan

The White House announced its school safety plan on Sunday night, a list of proposals crafted after President Trump's recent listening sessions with victims of mass shootings. The plan promises Justice Department assistance to provide "rigorous firearms training" to some schoolteachers, while also creating a federal commission on school violence to be chaired by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

The White House announced its formal endorsement of two pieces of legislation intended to combat gun violence: the Fix NICS Act, which would improve the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, proposed by Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Chris Murphy (D-CT); and the STOP School Violence Act, which would authorize $50 million a year in school safety improvements, including violence prevention training for teachers and students.

The administration also announced an expansion and overhaul of mental health programs, seeking to identify and treat individuals who may pose a threat. Notably, the plan does not call for raising the age for purchasing assault weapons to 21, despite President Trump seeming to endorse that idea in the past.

--- Schumer responds: "The White House taken tiny baby steps designed not to upset the NRA, when the gun violence epidemic in this country demands that giant steps be taken," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said in a statement, responding to the White House plan. "Democrats in the Senate will push to go further including passing universal background checks, actual federal legislation on protection orders, and a debate on banning assault weapons."

Weekend Review: Trump in Pennsylvania

President Trump held a rally outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on Saturday night, ostensibly to campaign for congressional candidate Rick Saccone, who is the GOP nominee in a competitive special election on Tuesday. Trump spoke for upwards of 75 minutes, jumping from topic to topic and barely mentioning Saccone. Some highlights...

  • Trump announced his 2020 campaign slogan would be "Keep America Great!"
  • Trump discussed imposing the death penalty for drug dealers, although he said he didn't know if the U.S. is "ready for it."
  • Trump called "Meet the Press" host Chuck Todd "a sleeping son of a bitch," labeled CNN "fake as hell," and called MSNBC "horrible."
  • Trump referred to potential 2020 rival Elizabeth Warren as "Pocahontas"; he also spoke about Oprah Winfrey's potential presidential bid, saying: "I would love to beat Oprah. I know her weakness."
  • Trump claimed to receive 52% of the vote among women, although he received 41% of the women's vote (and 52% of the vote among white women).
  • Trump called Rep. Maxine Waters "a very low IQ individual."

"Is there anything more fun than a Trump rally?" the President asked.

--- Why did Trump largely ignore Saccone at a campaign rally for him? According to Axios, it's because the president views the Republican as a "weak" candidate. Politico reported last week that Saccone was frustrating national Republicans, who are bracing for a loss in tomorrow's special election, despite Trump's 2016 victory in the district by 20 percentage points.

--- "The Republicans are 5-0 in recent Congressional races, a point which the Fake News Media continuously fails to mention," Trump said in a Sunday tweet. "I backed and campaigned for all of the winners...Hopefully, Rick Saccone will be another big win on Tuesday." (Of the seven congressional special elections held since Trump took office, Republicans have won five and lost two.)

--- Asked about Trump's name-calling at the rally on NBC's "Meet the Press," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin responded: "He's using those vulgarities in the context of a campaign rally.And obviously there were a lot of funny moments on that rally." He added: You know he likes to put names on people. He did that through the entire presidential election, including all the Republicans that he beat. So these are campaign rally issues."

Inside the White House

Javanka: "Ivanka Trump likes to be in complete control — over-prepared and deliberate — in contrast to her freewheeling and impulsive father," a new profile in the Washington Post says. "But at the moment, Ivanka — whose first name has become a brand identity — controls increasingly little of the world she inhabits." The report, which includes an interview with the presidential daughter turned adviser, details Ivanka's troubled status in the West Wing, amid a deepening rift between her and White House chief of staff John Kelly.

--- Meanwhile, Ivanka's husband and White House senior adviser Jared Kushner is "putting the finishing touches" on his Middle East peace plan, the New York Times reports.

Vacancies: White House director of strategic initiatives Christopher Liddell, who helps lead Jared Kushner's Office of American Innovation, is currently seen as the frontrunner to succeed the outgoing Gary Cohn as Director of the National Economic Council, per the New York Times. Aides in the White House and on Capitol Hill have pushed Cohn's deputy Shahira Knight, but she appears uninterested in the post.

According to Politico, the top internal candidates to succeed Hope Hicks as White House communications director are press secretary Sarah Sanders, director of strategic communications Mercedes Schlapp, and Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Public Affairs Tony Sayegh, although John Kelly is also considering outside options such as former campaign aide Jason Miller.

North Korea: "Tell him yes": the Wall Street Journal has a tick-tock of President Trump's hasty acceptance of an offer to meet from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. According to the New York Times, Trump's aides have begun planning for the meeting, although many "believe it will never happen."

Cabinet scandals: The White House has held private meetings with four Cabinet-level officials in recent weeks "scold them for embarrassing stories about questionable ethical behavior at their respective agencies," CNN reports. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt all met with officials about investigations into scandals at their agencies.

--- According to Axios, Trump views Shulkin in particular as "a major problem." The VA secretary is under scrutiny after an inspector general report said he used taxpayer dollars to pay for his wife's trip to Europe. And the Washington Post reports that the secretary is not even on speaking terms with many top officials at the agency, which has been plagued by ugly infighting for months.

2020 Central

Flake: Retiring Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), a vocal Trump critic, said on NBC's "Meet the Press" that a Republican should challenge the president in the 2020 primaries. "Yes, I do," Flake said when asked by moderator Chuck Todd if he thinks Trump should be challenged in 2020. The Arizonan added: "It would be a tough go in a Republican primary. The Republican Party is the Trump party right now. But that's not to say it will stay that way.”

Warren: Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) appeared on "Fox News Sunday," "State of the Union," and "Meet the Press," on Sunday morning, denying plans to run in 2020 on each show. "I'm not running for president," she insisted, notably using the present tense and declining to promise to serve out her full, six-year Senate term.

Biden: Advisers to former Vice President Joe Biden are mulling out-of-the-box ideas to distinguish his potential presidential bid, Politico reports. These possibilities include announcing really early or really late in the process, skipping the Iowa and New Hampshire contests, announcing a running mate right out of the gate, or pledging to serve only one term.

The Russia investigation

Mueller's playbook: Special counsel Robert Mueller is nearing the end of his obstruction of justice investigation, but "he may set it aside" and focus on other parts of his probe (such as potential collusion and Russian hacking) to ensure witnesses remain cooperative, according to Bloomberg.

Trump's legal team: In negotiations with Mueller, President Trump's lawyers are attempting to use "an interview with the president as leverage to spur a conclusion to the Russia investigation," the Wall Street Journal reports. Trump's team has discussed asking Mueller to commit to a deadline for concluding the Trump-related part of his probe in exchange for a sit-down with the president, or negotiating questions the special counsel could ask Trump.

--- President Trump met with longtime Washington lawyer Emmet Flood in the Oval Office last week to discuss joining the White House's team responding to the special counsel probe, the New York Times reported. The move is being interpreted as a sign of recognition by the White House that the Mueller investigation will likely continue longer than they had thought. Flood worked for President Bill Clinton during his impeachment process and has also represented Vice President Dick Cheney. Trump shot down the story in a pair of tweets on Sunday, insisting that he is "VERY happy" with his current legal team.

Coming soon

Stormy Daniels: CBS plans to air an interview with adult film star Stormy Daniels, who allegedly had an affair with President Trump, on "60 Minutes" on Sunday, March 18, BuzzFeed reports. According to the report, lawyers associated with President Trump "are considering legal action" to stop the interview from being aired.


Trump: At 11:15pm, President Trump receives his daily intelligence briefing. At 12:15pm, he hosts the 2017 World Series Champion Houston Astros. At 1pm, he has lunch with Energy Secretary Rick Perry.

Pence: At 10am, Vice President Mike Pence departs Washington, DC on Air Force Two. At 11am, he arrives in New York City. At 12:25pm, he participates in a "Protect the House" roundtable and lunch hosted by Great Ameria Committee, his political action committee (PAC). At 6pm, he participates in a "Protect the House" dinner. At 8:05pm, the Vice President departs New York, touching down in D.C. at 9pm.

Briefing: At 2pm, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders holds the daily press briefing.

Senate: The upper chamber meets at 4pm today. Following leader remarks, the Senate will resume consideration of the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act, which would roll back banking regulations set by the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law. The chamber will hold a procedural vote on the measure, which is expected to pass later this week with bipartisan support, at 5:30pm. The bill has exposed rifts within the Democratic Party, with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and other progressives waging a fierce campaign against the moderate senators who are backing it.

House: No votes are expected in the lower chamber today.


In Friday's newsletter, I misstated the details of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort's court appearance the day before. Manafort pleaded not guilty to 18 counts of tax evasion and bank fraud in a Virginia court, one of two indictments he currently faces from special counsel Robert Mueller.

I also misstated the agency employing John Gibbs, who was found by CNN to have spread a false conspiracy theory that Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman was a Satanist. Gibbs is a senior adviser at the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

My apologies for the errors, and thanks to the readers who pointed them out.

*All times Eastern