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Wake Up To Politics - October 9, 2017

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It's Monday, October 9, 2017. 393 days until Election Day 2018. 1,121 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!

Trump vs. Corker: President, GOP Senator Trade Fire

President Donald Trump took to Twitter on Sunday to attack a top member of his own party, Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN). Corker, who is retiring at the end of his current term, made headlines last week when he urged Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to stay in office, saying that Tillerson, Defense Secretary James Mattis, and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly "help separate our country from chaos."

Trump responded to this portrait of his Administration by going after Corker, tweeting that the Tennessean declined to run for re-election because the President refused to endorse him. "Senator Bob Corker 'begged' me to endorse him for re-election in Tennessee," the President said over two tweets. "I said 'NO' and he dropped out (said he could not win without my endorsement)." In a third tweet, Trump added: "I would fully expect Corker to be a negative voice and stand in the way of our great agenda. Didn't have the guts to run!"

A number of news outlets reported that the President's account of his conversation with Corker was false, and that Trump actually offered to endorse and campaign for Corker in a meeting last month. Corker's chief of staff went on the record in denying Trump's claim, issuing a statement on the matter to reporters: "The president called Senator Corker on Monday afternoon and asked him to reconsider his decision not to seek reelection and reaffirmed that he would have endorsed him, as he has said many times."

An hour after Trump's tweet, Corker responded with a stinging indictment of his party's leader. "It's a shame the White House has become an adult day care center," the senator tweeted. "Someone obviously missed their shift this morning." Later on Sunday, in an interview with the New York Times, Corker went even further in rebuking President Trump. "He concerns me," Corker said. "He would have to concern anyone who cares about our nation."

Corker also told the Times that Trump was treating the Presidency like "a reality show," with the potential to set the U.S. "on the path to World War III." Corker reiterated his view that certain senior officials must protect Trump from himself, saying: "I know for a fact that every single day at the White House, it's a situation of trying to contain him." And, the senator said, he's not the only Republican lawmaker with these opinions. "Except for a few people, the vast majority of our caucus understands what we're dealing with here," Corker said in the interview.

After Corker's tweet, President Trump went after the senator once again on Twitter. "Bob Corker gave us the Iran Deal, & that's about it," he wrote. "We need HealthCare, we need Tax Cuts/Reform, we need people that can get the job done!" Corker voted against the Iran nuclear deal, voted for Republican efforts to repeal Obamacare, and has praised Trump's tax reform push in the past. In fact, his vote is crucial to the future of all three of those Trump Administration priorities: the President does not have many GOP votes to spare, and antagonizing Corker likely does not help ensure his vote on tax reform.

Corker also holds the powerful Foreign Relations gavel, with authority over all diplomatic nominations coming out of the Trump Administration (including a potential replacement to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, whose resignation could reportedly come soon) as well as the Iran deal, which Trump is set to "decertify" later this week.

The Tennessee Republican's criticisms also hold weight considering his past support for Trump: Corker campaigned for the President, and was a contender to be Vice President or Secretary of State. Their relationship has slowly soured as the months have passed, coming to a head when Corker questioned Trump's "stability" and "competence" after his comments on Charlottesville. Now, Corker has announced that he will not be running for office again, giving him needed cover to speak out and say what, in his telling, many of his GOP colleagues feel.

The Rundown

White House Releases Immigration "Wish List": The Trump Administration made the next move in negotiations with Congress on a deal to keep the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which protects undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as minors from deportation. Trump sent a list of his requirements for the deal to congressional leaders, outlining many hardline demands that could sink a potential agreement.

Those policies included funding of his proposed Mexican border wall, removal of "Unaccompanied Minor Children" who are sheltered in the U.S. after coming illegally to escape violence, requirements for businesses to use E-Verify to ensure employees are not illegal arrivals, and changes to the legal immigration system that would allow citizens to only sponsor immediate family for permanent residency.

While Republican lawmakers largely praised the proposals, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) called the demands "anathema to the Dreamers [as immigrants protected by DACA are called], to the immigrant community and to the vast majority of Americans." They also accused Trump of reneging on a previous agreement to keep the DACA program without demanding funding for a border wall, which they said the President agreed to at a dinner last month.

Weekend Twitter: Every weekend, it seems, President Trump sets off new firestorms with his tweets, and this one was no exception. In addition to his tweets on Corker, the President also attacked late-night hosts, demanding "Equal Time" on television; confirmed that he called Senate Minority Leader Schumer to discuss a bipartisan health care fix; made more cryptic comments on North Korea; and praised Vice President Mike Pence for walking out of a football game after players kneeled during the National Anthem.

Google on Russian interference: The Washington Post reported this morning on Russian use of Google to interfere in the 2016 election. According to the Post, the company "has found that tens of thousands of dollars were spent on ads by Russian agents who aimed to spread disinformation across Google’s many products, which include YouTube, as well as advertising associated with Google search, Gmail, and the company’s DoubleClick ad network."

Bannon Wing Expands GOP Challenges: In the wake of his preferred candidate, Judge Roy Moore, beating an establishment-backed incumbent in the Alabama Senate special election last month, former Trump White House chief strategist Steve Bannon is gearing up for campaigns across the country in 2018. The New York Times reported on Sunday that Bannon is urging Erik Prince, founder of the private security contractor Blackwater, to challenge Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY). According to the Times, other Bannon allies mulling Senate runs include state Sen. Chris McDaniel, who may challenge Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS), and state First Lady Ann LePage, who could run against Sen. Angus King (I-ME).

According to Breitbart News, the website Bannon leads as executive chairman, pro-Trump Republicans are "running or actively seeking out serious primary challengers for every GOP incumbent senator up for reelection next year except for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)." Wake Up To Politics reported last month on the launch of Bannon's post-White House campaign against the Republican establishment at a rally in St. Louis with a number of his favored candidates.

Today in Washington

Today is Columbus Day, marking Christopher Columbus' arrival in the Americas on October 12, 1492. The observance has been celebrated as a federal holiday since 1934, and on the second Monday in October since the 1968 passage of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. In accordance with that legislation, President Donald Trump signed a proclamation last week honoring Columbus' "ambitious and daring voyage" and calling his arrival a "transformative event that undeniably and fundamentally changed the course of human history and set the stage for the development of our great Nation."

The Beltway will be quiet today in honor of the holiday...

  • White House: President Donald Trump has no public events scheduled.
  • Congress: Neither house of Congress is in session. The House will be back tomorrow, while the Senate is on recess all week (a pre-scheduled break that saves Republicans from having to answer to questions about Sen. Corker's comments over the weekend).
  • Supreme Court: The Court will not hold oral arguments or a conference.