6 min read

Wake Up To Politics - March 6, 2018

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Tuesday, March 6, 2018. 245 days until Election Day 2018. 973 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!

Breaking: North Korea open to denuclearization, Seoul says

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has agreed to suspend nuclear and missile tests while engaged in negotiations with South Korea, Seoul's government announced Tuesday morning. According to the office of South Korean president Moon Jae-in, Kim has agreed to hold an inter-Korean summit on the border between the two Koreas in late April, the first of its kind since 2007.

South Korea also said that Kim expressed willingness to begin talks with the United States about "denuclearization and normalizing relations"; President Trump has said that North Korea must be willing to denuclearize before negotiations begin.

"The North Korean side clearly stated its willingness to denuclearize," Moon's office said. "It made clear that it would have no reason to keep nuclear weapons if the military threat to the North was eliminated and its security guaranteed."

Former Trump aide may now comply with Mueller subpoena  

Former Trump campaign aide Sam Nunberg spent much of Monday on a media tour, granting interviews to CNN, MSNBC, NY1, the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and other outlets as he declared his intention to ignore a subpoena from special counsel Robert Mueller.

The subpoena, which Nunberg supplied to multiple outlets and then held in his hand as he appeared on television, demanded he turn over all documents he had from November 1, 2015 to the present that related to President Trump and former Trump campaign officials Carter Page, Corey Lewandowski, Hope Hicks, Keith Schiller, Michael Cohen, Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, Roger Stone, and Steve Bannon.

In his multiple interviews, Nunberg said that it would take too much time to sort through that "ridiculous amount of documents," and that he would ignore the subpoena's demands and an order by Mueller to appear before a grand jury on Friday.

"Screw that," he said on CNN. "Why do I have to go? Why? For what?" Nunberg essentially dared Mueller to hold him in contempt of court and jail him. "Let him arrest me," Nunberg told the Washington Post.

But by Monday night, the ex-Trump aide had begun to change his tune. Nunberg told the Associated Press that he is "going to end up cooperating" with the special counsel, although he would like Mueller's team to narrow the subpoena's scope of inquiry. After a day of publicly proclaiming his intent to defy Mueller, Nunberg appeared to back away from his plan to fight. "I'm not cooperating," he had said earlier in the day.

Throughout Monday, as he bounced from television set to television set, Nunberg asked various news anchors and commentators for their legal advice and speculated that his lawyer would drop him. "Do you I think should cooperate?" he asked CNN's Jake Tapper, who replied: "If it were me, I would."

Nunberg served on the Trump campaign in its early stages, working alongside consultant Roger Stone to set up the campaign before being fired in August 2015 after controversial Facebook posts of his were uncovered. Nunberg said Monday that the Mueller investigation is "unfairly targeting" Stone, who he describes as his mentor, and said he would not appear before the grand jury because "they want me to testify against Roger."

Other highlights from Nunberg Day...

  • "Trump may well have done something during the election with the Russians."
  • "You know [Trump] knew about [his son's Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer]. He was talking about it a week before. ... I don't know why he went around trying to hide it."
  • "I was told that [Russian pop star Emin Alagarov] had offered to send women up to Trump's room [while he was in Moscow] but Trump didn't want it. He's too smart for that."
  • "I believe [former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser] Carter Page was colluding with the Russians. ... Carter Page is a weird dude."

Nunberg offered no evidence for any of these claims.

Happening today: Texas primaries

The Lone Star State holds the first primary contests of the 2018 midterms today, marking an official start to the election cycle and the first opportunity for hard data on voter turnout and the mood of the electorate. Democrats have dominated early voting, which could show the party's heightened enthusiasm in the Trump era, even in deep-red Texas.

However, that energy has translated into a number of bitter primaries, most notably in the state's 7th congressional district. Seven Democrats are competing to challenge Rep. John Culberson (R-TX), a vulnerable eight-term congressman, including attorney Lizzie Pannill Fletcher and progressive activist Laura Moser. The race gained national attention after the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) took the rare step of publishing opposition research on Moser, a candidate for the Democratic nomination.

Trump ignores GOP pressure to reverse on tariffs

Congressional Republicans continue to urge President Trump to back down from his plan to impose steep tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. Trump spontaneously announced the plan last Thursday but it has yet to be formally rolled out. "We are extremely worried about the consequences of a trade war and are urging the White House to not advance with this plan," a spokesperson for House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said Monday, in a high-profile break with his party's leader.

Trump has so far ignored such calls from inside his party. "We're not backing down," he said at the White House on Monday. In a tweet earlier in the day, he threatened U.S. allies Canada and Mexico, saying that the tariffs "will only come off if [a] new & fair NAFTA agreement is signed."

According to Politico, economic adviser Gary Cohn and other free-trade advocates inside the White House are continuing to urge Trump not to follow through with the tariffs; Cohn is reportedly planning a Thursday meeting at the White House with representatives of industries likely to be hurt by the tariffs. Meanwhile, the "trade war" continues, as the European Union prepares tariffs on American goods in response; according to Bloomberg, the EU plans to target motorcycles, jeans, bourbon whiskey, and other products.

Cochran to resign

Longtime Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) announced Monday that he plans to resign from the Senate on April 1. Cochran, 80, has suffered from health problems for months; his resignation will end a congressional career that began in the House in 1973. He has served in the Senate for nearly 40 years, since December 1978. Cochran is also chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee. The Mississippian is the tenth longest-serving senator in U.S. history.

Cochran's resignation paves the way for a November special election for the seat, on the same day as Mississippi's other senator, Republican Roger Wicker, is up for re-election. State Sen. Chris McDaniel (R-MS) announced last week that he would challenge Wicker in the GOP primary, but left the door open Monday to switching to run for Cochran's seat instead.

McDaniel has lobbied Gov. Phil Bryant (R-MS) for the interim appointment to Cochran's seat; President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) have reportedly urged Byrant to appoint himself.

Trump's Twitter feed

What has the president been tweeting about this morning?

7:55am: "The new Fake News narrative is that there is CHAOS in the White House. Wrong! People will always come & go, and I want strong dialogue before making a final decision. I still have some people that I want to change (always seeking perfection). There is no Chaos, only great Energy!"

  • Trump is pushing back on the recent rash of stories depicting White House infighting, after communications director Hope Hicks announced her resignation and senior adviser Jared Kushner found himself engulfed in controversies as other officials are reportedly looking to the exits.

8:00am: "Total inaction on DACA by Dems. Where are you? A deal can be made!"

  • Monday was the deadline for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which protects immigrants who arrived in the U.S. illegally as minors, to expire. Congress has failed to pass any legislation extending DACA, which Trump has blamed on Democrats, although he set the March 5 deadline himself. DACA recipients are now in limbo, as a federal judge overturned Trump's recession of the program.

8:05am: "We will see what happens," quote tweeting a Drudge Report tweet about the Korean negotiations.

8:25am: "Lowest rated Oscars in HISTORY. Problem is, we don’t have Stars anymore - except your President (just kidding, of course)!"

Today in Washington

Trump: The president meets with Prime Minister Stefan Löfven of Sweden today. The two leader will hold a joint press conference at 3:30 pm.

Congress: The Senate will hold a procedural vote on a bipartisan bill rolling back much of the Dodd-Frank banking reform bill. The chamber is also scheduled to vote on another Trump district court nominee, Terry Doughty.

The House is set to vote on a bill reauthorizing the Federal Communications Commision (FCC) for the first time since 1990, as well as a bill to ban federal funding for portraits of the president, Cabinet members, and lawmakers.

*All times Eastern