Wake Up To Politics - May 25, 2018
I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Friday, May 25, 2018. 165 days until Election Day 2018. 893 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hi all —
First off, thank you so much for reading Wake Up To Politics and trusting me to help guide you through this unique moment in American politics. Writing this newsletter is a lot of fun for me, and it is also a true honor to be able to inform people from across the globe each morning. One year ago, I was writing for about 2,000 subscribers; today, this email will be sent to more than 50,000 readers, a number that still astounds me. Thank you.
That said, today's will be the last edition of the newsletter for a few months. I'm hoping to catch up on some sleep to be ready for my final exams next week, and then I'll be off to summer camp, without access to Internet or much political news. But don't go anywhere: I'll be back sometime in late July or early August, and I'm looking forward to jumping right back in when summer ends.
I'm *sure* there won't be any big news that will break until then... right...?
Thanks again for your readership and your understanding,
P.S. I also want to thank everyone who has written me with your comments, question, feedback, and corrections. That line of communication always helps improve the newsletter, and I am so grateful to have it. I have tried to answer most of my emails from the past few months; if I missed a note from you, I apologize. To that end, please know that I probably won't be able to respond to messages over the summer, including replies to this email. Sorry in advance.
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Trump pulls out of North Korea summit
President Trump on Thursday canceled his highly-anticipated summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, which had been scheduled to take place on June 12 in Singapore.
In a letter to Kim, Trump wrote that it would be "inappropriate" to hold the meeting "based on the tremendous anger and open hostility based on your most recent statement," likely referring to a North Korean official's comment earlier this week calling Vice President Mike Pence a "political dummy" and threatening a "nuclear-to-nuclear showdown."
"I felt a wonderful dialogue was building up between you and me, and ultimately, it is only that dialogue that matters," Trump wrote. "Some day, I look very much forward to meeting you." He added: "If you change your mind having to do with this most important summit, please do not hesitate to call me or write. The world, and North Korea in particular, has lost a great opportunity for lasting peace and great prosperity and wealth. This missed opportunity is a truly sad moment in history."
North Korean vice foreign minister Kim Kye Gwan said in a statement late Thursday night that Trump's decision was "unexpected and very regrettable," while reiterating that Kim remains "willing to sit down with the United States any time, in any format, to resolve the problems."
--- How we got here: According to the Washington Post, the summit "crumbled nearly as quickly as it came together." Just as Trump made a spontaneous decision in March to agree to a face-to-face meeting with Kim, he "arrived at a swift decision to cancel the summit" while speaking to aides over the phone on Thursday morning, after national security adviser John Bolton informed him of North Korea's latest statement the night before. Trump then dictated the letter to Kim himself, and the White House sent it out, catching many foreign allies (including South Korea) by surprise.
According to NBC News, Trump feared that the "North Koreans might beat him to the punch" and "wanted to be the one to cancel first."
--- Big picture: President Trump had reportedly been looking forward to the summit with Kim, even publicly discussing the possibility of winning the Nobel Peace Prize for the meeting. Now, after months of high-level talks, the U.S. and North Korea return to square one.
"The world now enters a second dangerous summer," Jonathan Swan and Mike Allen wrote in Axios this morning, reporting that "the United States was closer to war with North Korea last summer than is widely known...and now that same dangerous uncertainty is back."
White House officials attend briefings on FBI informant
Lawmakers attended two briefings on Thursday about the FBI's use of an informant during its investigation of the Trump campaign in 2016: one attended by House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA), House Oversight Committee chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC), and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI); the other attended by the bipartisan "Gang of 8," which is made up of the leaders of the caucuses and intelligence committees in both chambers and both parties. FBI Director Christopher Wray, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats participated in both briefings.
White House chief of staff John Kelly and Emmet Flood, the president's top lawyer in the Russia investigation, raised eyebrows by participating as well: they spoke at the beginning of both meetings, although they left after making their remarks. Their presence "infuriated Democrats" and according to legal experts, "could give off the appearance that the White House abused its authority to gain insight into an investigation that implicated the president," the New York Times reported.
House Intelligence Committee ranking member Adam Schiff (D-CA) spoke to reporters after the briefing, underlining that he had seen no information to suggest that the FBI informant's activities were improper, as President Trump and top Republicans have suggested. "Nothing we heard today has changed our view that there is no evidence to support ay allegation that the FBI or any intelligence agency placed a 'spy' in the Trump campaign, or otherwise failed to follow appropriate procedures and protocols," he said.
Russia investigation: Longtime Trump associate Roger Stone "privately sought information he considered damaging to Hillary Clinton from WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange during the 2016 presidential campaign," the Wall Street Journal reported.
--- Stone's finances are being probed by special counsel Robert Mueller, according to CNN.
Johnson pardon: President Trump on Thursday posthumously pardoned the late boxing champion Jack Johnson, who was convicted in 1913 for having a relationship with a white woman. Trump issued the pardon in an Oval Office ceremony attended by actor Sylvester Stallone and a number of boxing legends who had advocated for Johnson to receive redemption.
Recommended read: "George Conway's Tweets Raise West Wing Eyebrows" (Politico Magazine)
President Trump delivers the commencement address at the U.S. Naval Academy graduation ceremony at 10am today.
After returning from Annapolis, Trump meets with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at 2:30pm in the Oval Office.
Neither chamber of Congress is in session today ahead of Memorial Day weekend.
*All times Eastern