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Wake Up To Politics - October 2, 2017

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It's Monday, October 2, 2017. Happy October! Per presidential proclamation, it's National Disability Employment Awareness Month, National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (the White House was lit pink on Sunday to mark this observance), National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, and National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

400 days until Election Day 2018. 1,128 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 inbox at wakeuptopolitics.com/subscribe!

One housekeeping note... I'd like to apologize for an error in Friday's newsletter. In paragraph six of my report on the Price scandal, I accidentally wrote "Pence" instead of "Price." Thanks to the many subscribers who caught the mistake.

Breaking: Las Vegas shooting

At least fifty people are dead and more than 400 are wounded after a Sunday night shooting at an outdoor music festival on the Las Vegas Strip, law enforcement officials said early this morning. The gunman, later identified as local 64-year-old Stephen Paddock, was killed by police. If the death toll is correct, this is the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, outpacing the 49 individuals killed at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando last year.

  • President Donald Trump, tweet: "My warmest condolences and sympathies to the victims and families of the terrible Las Vegas shooting. God bless you!"
  • White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, statement: "The President has been briefed on the horrific tragedy in Las Vegas. We are monitoring the situation closely and offer our full support to state and local officials. All of those affected are in our threats and prayers."
  • Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV), tweet: "Senseless, horrifying act of violence in Las Vegas tonight. Praying for all the victims & those impacted by the tragedy."
  • Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV), who represents Las Vegas, statement: "My heart aches for the victims, their loved ones, and our community. I am grateful for law enforcement's swift response and the many good Samaritans whose selfless acts of bravery showcased Las Vegas' values to the world. We are a resilient and benevolent town that will not be intimidated by acts of violence."

White House

Weekend Twitter: Puerto Rico, North Korea

Puerto Rico: As Puerto Rico struggles to recover from the devastating Hurricane Maria, President Donald Trump took to Twitter on Saturday to attack Carmen Yulín Cruz, the mayor of the island's capital and most populated city. Trump criticized Cruz's "poor leadership ability," adding that Puerto Ricans "want everything to be done for them." The tweets came after the mayor's plea for help at a Friday press conference. "I am begging, begging anyone who can hear us to save us from dying," she said.

In a Sunday interview on NBC's "Meet the Press," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin defended the President's tweets, continuing the narrative of Trump as a "counterpuncher." "When the President gets attacked, he attacks back, and I think the mayor's comments were unfair given what the federal government has done," Mnuchin said.

Trump continued to praise his Administration's response to Puerto Rico in additional tweets on Sunday, saying that first responders "have done an amazing job" while dismissing "Fake News [networks]...going out of their way to disparage our great First Responders as a way to 'get Trump'" and "politically motivated ingrates" on the island who are criticizing his Administration. He repeatedly said that "the Fake News Media in conjunction with the Dems" are "working overtime" to paint the hurricane response unfavorably.

"To the people of Puerto Rico: Do not believe the #FakeNews!" he urged at one point. Later, he added: "Results of recovery efforts will speak much louder than complaints by San Juan Mayor. Doing everything we can to help great people of PR!" Specifically, the White House took issue with a Washington Post story on the Administration's response to Puerto Rico, detailing the delays that took place as a result of Trump's staying at his Bedminster golf club last weekend. Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders called the article "false"; Trump returned to Bedminster this weekend. The President will travel to Puerto Rico on Tuesday.

  • San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz on ABC's "This Week," responding to the President's criticism: "There's only one goal, and it's saving lives."
  • According to the Defense Department: 95% of residents of Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands are without power, while 55% are without access to safe drinking water, as of Saturday morning. The DoD announced on Sunday that their number of personnel in Puerto Rico had increased from around 4,600 to around 6,400.
  • According to Gov. Ricardo Rossello: about 10,000 people were still in shelters as of Saturday.
  • Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan, who is leading the military's response, to "PBS News Hour": "This is the worst I've ever seen."
  • FEMA Administrator Brock Long on Fox News: Puerto Rico hurricane relief is "the most logistically challenging event the U.S. has ever seen."

North Korea: Then, Trump lit the political world on fire on Sunday morning when he tweeted about his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's diplomatic overtures to North Korea. Tillerson "is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man," the President said, urging him to "save your energy." Later, Trump added: "Being nice to Rocket Man hasn't worked in 25 years, why would it work now? Clinton failed, Bush failed, and Obama failed. I won't fail."

Trump's North Korea tweets come after Tillerson announced for the first time on Saturday that the United States was in direct communication with North Korea to open a channel for dialogue on the rogue state's nuclear program. "We have lines of communication to Pyongyang. We're not in a dark situation, a blackout," Tillerson told reporters while traveling in China.

  • Politico's Susan Glasser: "Can never remember a president publicly undercutting a secretary of state as Trump just has. Ever."
  • Washington Post's Dan Balz, another veteran reporter, adds to that tweet: "I had the same thought. Extraordinary action."
  • State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert: North Korea "will not obtain a nuclear capability. Whether through diplomacy or force is up to the regime...Diplomatic channels are open for #KimJongUn for now. They won't be open forever."

The Short List: White House searches for Price replacement

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price resigned on Friday after reporting about his use of private jets and military aircraft in a number of trips since taking office. President Donald Trump was reportedly "infuriated" by news of the Secretary's travel;  Price's resignation came as the scandal continued to absorb Washington's attention, amid multiple investigations into the matter. He is the first member of the Trump Cabinet to step down. In his resignation letter, Price said he was exiting to allow the President's agenda to "move forward without distraction."

Here's a list of Price's potential successors, via Politico:

Administration officials

  • Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma, a top ally of Vice President Mike Pence who has played a key role in GOP efforts to repeal Obamacare
  • Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, who has previous government experience from the George W. Bush Administration
  • Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, who has received high praise from Trump for his service and was unanimously confirmed by the Senate in February
  • Acting Assistant Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary for Health Don Wright, who is now serving as Acting HHS Secretary in place of Price
  • Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, a retired neurosurgeon who was mentioned for the HHS post during the transition

Current Elected Officials

  • Florida Governor Rick Scott, a former executive in the health care industry and early Trump endorser
  • Tennessee Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn, a leading Obamacare and Planned Parenthood critic

Former Elected Officials

  • Former Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, a former Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals and later an Assistant HHS Secretary under George W. Bush
  • Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, who was involved in the crafting of the Graham-Cassidy health care bill and, along with Jindal, ran against Trump in the 2016 Republican primaries

Wild Card

  • Also mentioned in the Politico article: Dr. Mehmet Oz, the cardiothoracic surgeon host of "The Dr. Oz Show," which Trump has appeared on

--- More fallout from the Price scandal... Office of Management and Budget director Mick Mulvaney signed a memo on Friday informing Cabinet officials that White House chief of staff John Kelly must sign off on "all travel on Government-owned, rented, leased, or chartered aircraft."

The President's Schedule

  • At 10am, President Trump receives his daily intelligence briefing.
  • At 11am, he leads a summit on deregulation, as part of the White House-designated "Cut Red Tape Day," the launch of Trump's new push to roll back government regulations.
  • At 11:35am, Trump meets with a group of four Republican governors: Kentucky's Matt Bevin, Mississippi's Phil Bryant, Maine's Paul LePage, and New Hampshire's Chris Sununu.
  • At 12:20pm, the President and First Lady welcome Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha of Thailand and his wife Madam Naraporn Chan-o-Cha. At 12:40pm, Trump meets with the Prime Minister. At 1pm, the two hold a working luncheon. According to the White House, they "will discuss ways to strengthen and broaden bilateral relations and enhance cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region."
  • Finally, at 7pm, Trump has dinner with a group of GOP lawmakers.


Today in Congress

  • The House convenes today at 12pm. The chamber is scheduled to vote on six bills, all related to federal lands.
  • The Senate convenes at 3pm. The chamber will debate the re-nomination of Ajit V. Pai to be a member of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), holding a confirmation vote at 5:30pm. Pai was first nominated to the FCC by then-President Barack Obama in May 2012, confirmed for a five-year term. Upon taking office, President Trump named Pai to be Chairman of the agency, the first Indian-American to hold the office; in March, Trump re-nominated Pai for another five-year term as a member of the commission.
  • Pai has previously served in positions at the Justice Department, Senate Judiciary Committee, the FCC's Office of General Counsel, and Verizon. Since becoming chairman of the FCC, Pai has already gained attention for rolling back Obama-era net neutrality regulations, which prohibit internet service providers from treating content on the web unequally.
  • Many Democrats have opposed Pai's re-nomination to the FCC due to his net neutrality stance, but six members of the minority voted in his favor in a 55-41 procedural vote last week.
  • Also today: according to CNN, Facebook "will give Congress copies of the 3,000 ads Russian-bought political ads" today. The advertisements reportedly include "Black Lives Matter posts; posts depicting refugees as rapists; and posts promoting gun rights and the Second Amendment, to name a few."

Supreme Court

A New Term

The Supreme Court returns for a new term today, with all nine seats on the bench filled. The conservatives on the court are expected to be in control this year, voting in their most major cases since Trump nominee Neil Gorsuch joined in April. Here are some of the cases to watch, via the New York Times:

  • Gill v. Whitford, in which the challengers "are asking the court to rule for the first time that extreme political gerrymandering — the drawing of voting districts to give lopsided advantages to the party in power — violates the Constitution."
  • Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute, a challenge to "the lawfulness of Ohio's rigorous efforts to cull its voting rolls."
  • Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, "a clash between laws the prohibit businesses open to the public from discriminating based on sexual orientation and claims of religious freedom."
  • Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis, which focuses on "whether companies can use arbitration clauses in employment contracts to prohibit workers from linking together to take legal action over workplace issues." This case is being argued today.
  • Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, on "whether government workers who choose not join unions may be forced to pay for the unions' collective bargaining work."
  • Carpenter v. United States, "which will consider the privacy of location data held by cellphone companies."