I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Wednesday, May 16, 2018. 174 days until Election Day 2018. 902 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
North Korea threatens to cancel Trump-Kim summit
The historic summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump — scheduled to take place in Singapore on June 12, as the president announced last week in an anticipatory tweet — is now in doubt, after a warning issued by North Korean vice foreign minister Kim Gye Gwan early this morning.
In a statement published by the state-run Korean Central News Agency, Kim Gye Gwan threatened to cancel the summit. "If the U.S. is trying to drive us into a corner to force our unilateral nuclear abandonment," he said, "we will no longer be interested in such dialogue and cannot but reconsider our proceeding to the DPRK-U.S. summit."
North Korea also canceled high-level talks that were scheduled to take place with South Korea today, due to a joint military drill conducted by South Korea and the U.S.
In his statement, Kim pointed to recent comments by Trump's national security adviser John Bolton, who has compared North Korea to "Libya 2004," referencing the Bush-era deal between the United States and Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi, in which Libya ended its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.
Kim rejected U.S. attempts to treat North Korea like it has other rogue states in the past, calling Bolton's comments "a manifestation of awfully sinister move[s] to impose on our dignified state the destiny of Libya or Iraq, which had been collapsed due to the yielding of their countries to big powers."
The "world knows too well that our country is neither Libya nor Iraq, which have met a miserable fate," he reiterated, expounding on the "feeling of repugnance" that the regime feels towards Bolton.
The official indicated that North Korea would not accept a deal involving sanctions relief ("we have never had any expectation of U.S. support in carrying out our economic construction") and would also push against a "one-sided" agreement in which North Korea's nuclear program would end while the U.S. program would remain intact.
"If President Trump follows in the footsteps of his predecessors, he will be recorded as more tragic and unsuccessful president than his predecessors, far from his initial ambition to make unprecedented success," Kim said in his statement, a stinging rebuke of Trump.
The cancellation of his summit with Kim — already being trumpeted as a cornerstone foreign policy achievement, with chatter (partly promoted by the president himself) of a Nobel Peace Prize — would be a major setback for President Trump, who has pinned his hopes on his ability to personally negotiate with Kim Jong Un and end a stalemate that has troubled his predecessors.
The State Department was caught off-guard by North Korea's threat, telling reporters Tuesday that "we have not anything from that government or the government of South Korea to indicate that we would not continue conducting these exercises or that we would not continue planning for our meeting between President Trump and Kim Jong Un next month."
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement that the U.S. would "look at what North Korea has said independently, and continue to coordinate closely with our allies."
Primary results: Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Idaho, Oregon
Key results by state:
- Senate: Rep. Lou Barletta (R-PA) won the Republican nomination to take on Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), defeating state Rep. Jim Christiana. Barletta was an early Trump supporter who was boosted by a presidential robocall in the state.
- Governor: State Sen. Scott Wagner (R-PA), who was backed by the GOP establishment as well as White House chief strategist Steve Bannon's nationalist wing of the party, received the Republican nod to face Gov. Tom Wolf (D-PA) in November.
- PA-4, PA-5, PA-7: Women won contested Democratic primaries in three Pennsylvania congressional districts, in a state that currently has an all-male delegation in D.C. Former Allentown city solicitor Susan Wild defeated Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli in the 7th District, a victory for the party's progressive wing (Morganelli had espoused more conservative views on abortion and immigration). State Rep. Madeleine Dean and former school board member Mary Scanlon also won primaries in the 4th and 5th Districts, respectively, both heavily Democratic, open seats.
- NE-02: First-time candidate Kara Eastman defeated former Rep. Brad Ashford (D-NE) in the Democratic primary for a district many see as one of the party's prime pick-up opportunities. Ashford, who held the seat from 2015 to 2017, was backed by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), while Eastman had received progressive support for her backing of Medicare For All and other liberal stances.
- Governor: Lt. Gov Brad Little (R-ID) won the GOP nod to succeed retiring Gov. Butch Otter (R-ID), defeating Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-ID). Labrador is the fourth House Republican to lose a primary bid for higher office this cycle. Little will face state Rep. Paulette Jordan (D-ID), who would be the first Native American governor in the U.S. if she wins.
- Governor: State Rep. Knute Buehler (R-OR) won a 10-way Republican primary to face Gov. Kate Brown (D-OR) in November.
The Russia investigation
--- White House official John Mashburn testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in late March that "he thought he had received an email in the first half of 2016 alerting the Trump campaign that Russia had damaging information about Hillary Clinton," the New York Times reported Tuesday night.
Mashburn said that the email came from Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, who has pleaded guilty in special counsel Robert Mueller's probe for lying to investigators about his contacts with a Russian agent who told him in April 2016 that the Russians had compromising information on Clinton in the form of "thousands of emails." Mashburn, who served as the campaign's policy director and is now Deputy Cabinet Secretary in the White House, said that he remembered receiving the email before the party conventions in the summer. WikiLeaks began publishing Clinton's emails in October.
However, two months after Mashburn's testimony, investigators for the Senate panel and Robert Mueller have not been able to turn up such a message. "Investigators will now have to decide what to do with a witness who appears to be telling the truth and remembers a potentially volatile detail that cannot be corroborated," the Times said.
--- A federal judge rejected an attempt by former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort on Tuesday to dismiss Mueller's indictment against him. Manafort has attempted to argue that the charges relating to his past work in Ukraine fall outside of Mueller's authority, an argument that worked well on a judge in Virginia (where Manafort is facing a separate indictment). However, U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson in D.C. ruled that "the indictment falls squarely within...the authority granted to the special counsel," who she said "would have been remiss to ignore such an obvious potential link between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.“
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The president's schedule
At 11am, President Trump receives his intelligence briefing.
At11:45am, he welcomes Shavkat Mirziyoyev, the President of Uzbekistan, to the White House. At 11:50am, Trump and Mirziyoyev will participate in a photo opportunity, before holding an expanded bilateral working lunch together at 12pm. At 12:45pm, Trump will participate in the departure ceremony for Mirziyoyev.
According to the White House, the two presidents "will renew the United States–Uzbekistan bilateral strategic partnership, in order to pursue shared interests and address emerging challenge" and will discuss "Uzbekistan’s progress on implementing important reforms, enhancing trade and investment, and addressing the regional security situation, including developments in Afghanistan." This is Mirziyoyev's first visit to the White House.
At 2:45pm, Trump participates in a photo opportunity with the White House News Photographers Association award recipients.
At 3:15pm, he hosts a roundtable with California officials who oppose the state's sanctuary policies, including House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA).
For the second day in a row, there is no White House press briefing scheduled.
The Senate convenes at 9:30am.
At 12pm, the chamber will hold a procedural vote on a joint resolution repealing changes to net neutrality rules recently made by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
A vote on passage of the resolution will be held around 3pm. The measure will likely pass the Senate with the backing of all 49 Democrats and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) but is not expected to find success in the House.
Following the net neutrality vote, the Senate will vote on confirmation of Mitchell Zais to be Deputy Secretary of Education. Zais served as South Carolina Superintendent of Education from 2011 to 2015, and as President of Newberry College from 2000 to 2010.
--- The Senate Intelligence Committee is set to approve Gina Haspel's nomination to be Director of the CIA. Haspel is expected to be confirmed by the full Senate later this week. She is opposed by Republican Sens. Rand Paul (KY) and John McCain (AZ), but has the support of five Senate Democrats: Intelligence Committee ranking member Mark Warner (VA), Joe Donnelly (IN), Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Bill Nelson (NE), and Joe Manchin (WV).
Warner endorsed Haspel on Tuesday after she sent a letter to him repudiating the CIA's post-9/11 interrogation program, which involved using torture tactics against terrorist suspects, for the first time. Haspel said the program "is not the one CIA should have undertaken" and acknowledged that it "ultimately did damage to our officers and our standing in the world."
--- Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt, now facing 12 federal investigations, will testify before a Senate Appropriations Committee panel amid numerous allegations of ethical abuses and excessive spending.
--- The Senate Judiciary Committee holds a hearing on Cambridge Analytica, after the New York Times reported on Tuesday that the data firm is being investigated by the Justice Department and the FBI.
The House convenes at 10am.
The chamber is set to consider three pieces of legislation: the Black Hills National Cemetery Boundary Expansion Act, the Protect and Serve Act, and the VA MISSION Act.
*All times Eastern