Wake Up To Politics - May 15, 2018
I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Tuesday, May 15, 2018. 175 days until Election Day 2018. 903 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A split screen was on display from Israel on Monday, as Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump, and other members of the Trump Administration participated in the opening of the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem — while at least 58 Palestinians were killed by the Israeli army while protesting at the Gaza border. "The responsibility for these tragic deaths rests squarely with Hama," White House spokesman Raj Shah said at the Monday press briefing, adding that "Israel has a right to defend itself."
Meanwhile, the embassy move was cheered by President Trump and his aides, as well as by lawmakers from both parties, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY).
Vice President Mike Pence is gaining attention for the "outsize political portfolio that [he and his aides] have seized for themselves as the 2018 elections approach," the New York Times reports. According to the Times, Pence is causing tensions with the White House as he makes moves to cement his place in the GOP.
Key line: "Republican officials now see Mr. Pence as seeking to exercise expansive control over a political party ostensibly helmed by Mr. Trump, tending to his own allies and interests even when the president’s instincts lean in another direction. Even as he laces his public remarks with praise for the president, Mr. Pence and his influential chief of staff, Nick Ayers, are unsettling a group of Mr. Trump’s fierce loyalists who fear they are forging a separate power base."
Seeking to blunt Pence's power grab, "the president has stepped in to assert his dominance," according to Politico, which reported on a pattern of events that Trump has spoken at instead of Pence, bumping the vice president from getting top billing. In addition, Fox News reported that a top Trump loyalist, the president's first campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, has been installed as an adviser at Great America Committee, Pence's political action committee (PAC).
Related: Axios reports on the quiet setup of the Trump 2020 campaign operation and campaign manager Brad Parscale's plans for a "big data" push. According to the reports, Trump's team is eyeing "two states as possible pickups for 2020": Minnesota and Colorado.
The controversy surrounding White House communications aide Kelly Sadler, who reportedly joked at an internal meeting last week that Sen. John McCain's opposition to CIA Director nominee Gisa Haspel "doesn't matter" because "he's dying anyway," dragged on into its second week. The White House continued to focus on the leak aspect of the scandal, while critics in both parties urged the administration to publicly apologize.
President Trump addressed the leaky culture inside his White House in a tweet on Monday, saying: "The so-called leaks coming out of the White House are a massive over exaggeration put out by the Fake News Media in order to make us look as bad as possible. With that being said, leakers are traitors and cowards, and we will find out who they are!"
Asked on Fox News if she expected personnel changes due to the leaks, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway responded: "I do, actually. Yes, I do."
Meanwhile, Senate Republicans are "openly seething over the White House's treatment" of McCain, Politico reported, ahead of President Trump's lunch with the GOP caucus today. While many GOP senators have urged the White House to apologize, Raj Shah declined to do so at the Monday briefing, saying the matter had been "dealt with internally."
The Supreme Court on Monday struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) of 1992, which prohibited states from authorizing sports gambling. The 6-3 decision opens the door for states to legalize betting on college and professional sports.
Prosecutors dismissed a felony invasion-of-privacy charge against Gov. Eric Greieens (R-MO) on Monday, in the trial's third day of jury selection. However, St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner said that she plans to refile the charge and may appoint a special prosecutor in the case; Gardner's move came after a judge ruled that Greitens' attorneys could call Gardner as a witness in the trial.
Greitens, who has been accused of taking a nude photo of a woman without her consent, called the development "a great victory" that "has been a long time coming." The governor still faces another felony charge, for computer data tampering, and Republican leaders in the state legislature signaled that the prosecutors' decision will not impact their potential impeachment proceedings.
First Lady Melania Trump underwent surgery "to treat a benign kidney condition" on Monday, the White House announced. According to her office, "the procedure was successful and there were no complications." She will remain at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for the rest of the week to rest and recover. President Trump visited his wife at Walter Reed on Monday afternoon, tweeting that "she is in good spirits."
Also on Monday... former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) underwent surgery for pancreatic cancer, his family announced.
Recommended read: "Michael Avenatti is using Trump tactics to battle Trump, a strategy that comes with risks" (Washington Post)
Primary day: High-stakes contests in four states
Voters in Pennsylvania, Nebraska, Idaho, and Oregon head to the polls to participate in a slate of primary contests, many of which are highly influential towards which party will win control of Congress in November.
"Seeking the 23 seats they need to wrest control of the chamber, Democrats are looking at the new court-imposed congressional map in Pennsylvania, where a half-dozen districts are up for grabs. But the party’s fortunes may depend on which candidates prevail in crowded primaries under unfamiliar district lines on Tuesday."
"Democrats also have their eyes on a battleground district in eastern Nebraska — but would feel better about their chances if former Rep. Brad Ashford prevails in Tuesday’s primary there."
"Meanwhile, President Donald Trump is seeking to boost Rep. Lou Barletta in his bid to face Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) in the fall. But Barletta and Rep. Raúl Labrador — running in the GOP primary for Idaho governor — are hoping to fare better than other House members who have fallen short or underwhelmed among Republican voters when running statewide."
Polls close at 8pm in Pennsylvania, 9pm in Nebraska, and 11pm in Idaho and Oregon.
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Today in Washington
--- At 11am, President Trump addresses the 37th Annual National Peace Officers’ Memorial Service at the U.S. Capitol.
At 1pm, he participates in a Senate Republican policy lunch at the Capitol.
--- The Senate meets at 10am. At 12pm, the chamber will hold confirmation votes on two more Trump appellate court nominees, Joel Carson III (10th Circuit) and John Nalbandian (6th Circuit). If they are approved, the number of circuit court judges confirmed by the Senate since President Trump took office will grow to 21.
At 2:15pm, the Senate will recess for weekly conference meetings.
--- The House meets at 12pm today. The chamber is scheduled to vote on eight pieces of legislation: the Lieutenant Osvaldo Albarati Correctional Officer Self-Protection Act, the Justice Served Act, the School Resource Officer Assesment Act, the Medgar Evers National Monument Act, the Black Hills National Cemetery Boundary Act, the Oregon Tribal Economic Development Act, the National Law Enforcement Museum Exhibits Act, and a resolution "expressing the sense of the United States House of Representatives that Congress and the President should empower the creation of police and community alliances designed to enhance and improve communication and collaboration between members of the law enforcement community and the public they serve"
*All times Eastern