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Wake Up To Politics - September 10, 2020

It’s Thursday, September 10, 2020. Election Day is 54 days away. The first presidential debate is 19 days away. Have questions, comments, or tips? Email me.

White House

In interviews with veteran journalist Bob Woodward for a forthcoming book, Donald Trump admitted to deliberately minimizing the threat of the coronavirus in the early days of the pandemic.  “I wanted to always play it down,” Trump told Woodward on March 19. “I still like playing it down, because I don't want to create a panic.”

Weeks earlier, Trump had disclosed to Woodward that the virus was much deadlier than he was telling the American people at the time. “You just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed,” the president told the author on February 7. “And so that’s a very tricky one. That’s a very delicate one. It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flus.”

“This is deadly stuff,” he emphasized. Contrary to his private comments, Trump repeatedly argued publicly around the same time that the coronavirus was no worse than a seasonal flu and did not acknowledge that the virus could be transmitted through the air.

Woodward’s book, “Rage,” will be released on Tuesday, September 15. The Washington Post, his longtime journalistic home, released the first excerpts from the tome on Wednesday, as well as audio recordings from Woodward’s 18 interviews with Trump.

According to The Post, Woodward also reports in his book about unflattering comments made privately about the president by top officials. “The president has no moral compass,” former Defense Secretary James Mattis allegedly said, calling Trump “dangerous” and “unfit.” Former Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats believed “that Putin had something on Trump.” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, is quoted as calling Trump’s leadership “rudderless” and claiming that “his sole purpose is to get re-elected.” Trump, meanwhile, is quoted as telling one adviser that “my fucking generals a bunch of pussies” in a 2017 meeting.

The 480-page book will also include the first reported excerpts of flattering letters exchanged between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Of his flowery relationships with authoritarian leaders, such as Kim and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Trump told Woodward: “It’s funny, the relationships I have, the tougher and meaner they are, the better I get along with them.”

A legendary journalist since contributing to the resignation of President Richard Nixon in the Watergate scandal, Woodward is known for his dogged reporting and skills obtaining information. In one instance, Trump even boasted to Woodward about a secret new weapons system. “I have built a nuclear — a weapons system that nobody’s ever had in this country before,” the president said. “We have stuff that you haven’t even seen or heard about.” According to Woodward, other sources confirmed the existence of a new weapons system, although they would not provide details except to say that they were surprised Trump had disclosed it.

Read more:

  • “‘Pretty cool. Right?’ Unfiltered moments from Trump's 18 interviews with Bob Woodward” (CNN)
  • “Trump lashes out at Woodward book as a ‘political hit job’ as McEnany defends president over coronavirus comments” (Fox News)
  • “‘Life-and-death betrayal’: Biden, Democrats shred Trump over Woodward book pandemic revelations” (NBC News)
  • “Woodward defends decision to withhold Trump’s virus comments” (AP)
  • “Carl Bernstein — Bob Woodward's old reporting partner — said the tape of Trump admitting to downplaying COVID-19 is worse than Watergate” (Business Insider)


A senior official in the Department of Homeland Security alleged in a whistleblower complaint that the Trump administration sought to censor key intelligence reports about Russian election interference for political purposes. The official, former DHS intelligence chief Brian Murphy, said in his 24-page complaint that he was instructed by Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf to stop reporting on Russia’s efforts to interfere in the 2020 election because it “made the president look bad” and told to report on interference activities by China and Iran instead.

The instructions, Murphy added, were part of “a repeated pattern of abuse of authority” and “attempted censorship of intelligence analysis” by Wolf, his predecessor Kirstjen Nielsen, and other top officials. Murphy claimed that he was demoted last month in retaliation for pushing back on the alleged censorship.  

Murphy also reported to the DHS inspector general that the department’s No. 2 official, Ken Cuccinelli, ordered him to make the threat of white supremacy “appear less severe” in an intelligence assessment and to instead prominently feature information about “violent ‘left wing’ groups.”

Murphy’s complaint was filed on Tuesday, but released on Wednesday by the House Intelligence Committee. The panel’s chairman, Rep. Adam Schiff, also announced that he had issued a requested a deposition with Murphy, which is scheduled to take place on September 21.

Campaign 2020

President Trump unveiled an updated list of 20 potential nominees he would consider for a Supreme Court vacancy if one opens up in his possible second term, or in the remainder of his first. The new list includes three Republican senators — Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Ted Cruz of Texas, and Josh Hawley of Missouri — as well as prominent conservative legal figures such as former Solicitor Generals Paul Clement and Noel Francisco, Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, and Trump administration lawyers Steven Engel and Kate Todd.

Eight sitting appeals court judges were also on the list, including Gregory Katsas of the Ninth Circuit and Allison Jones Rushing of the Fourth Circuit. Rushing, 37, is the youngest federal judge in the nation.

These 20 names are added to those that Trump had already named in a Supreme Court list released in November 2017, which included Seventh Circuit Judge Amy Coney Barrett, Utah Sen. Mike Lee, and others. Trump first released a list of prospective Supreme Court nominees after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in the 2016 campaign; that decision is credited with building enthusiasm among conservative voters that was critical to his victory.

In his remarks on Wednesday, Trump challenged his Democratic rival to produce a Supreme Court list of his own. “Joe Biden has refused to release his list, perhaps because he knows the names are so extremely far left that they could never withstand public scrutiny or receive acceptance,” the president said.

The Trump campaign raised over $210 million in August, a substantial haul but far less than the Biden campaign raised in the same period. Biden’s team had previously announced that they raised $364.5 million in August, the largest fundraising total in a single month for any presidential candidate in history.

The Trump campaign’s announcement comes days after a detailed New York Times investigation into the campaign’s lavish spending. According to The Times, Trump’s campaign has already spent more than $800 million of the $1.1 billion it raised since the beginning of 2019 — resulting in an evaporation of their financial advantage, a rare position for an incumbent president to be in.


All times Eastern.

President Donald Trump will meet with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at 3:30 p.m. He will then travel to Freeland, Michigan, where he will speak at a campaign rally at 7 p.m.

Vice President Mike Pence will travel to Lexington, Virginia, to deliver remarks to cadets at the Virginia Military Institute.

The Senate will convene at 10 a.m. The chamber will vote at 11:30 a.m. to confirm three district judge nominees: Hala Jarbou (Western District of Michigan), Thomas Cullen (Western District of Virginia), and Diane Gujarati (Eastern District of New York).

The chamber will then hold a procedural vote on the Senate GOP’s “skinny” coronavirus relief legislation, a $500 billion package that includes $300-per-week federal unemployment benefits, another round of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans for small businesses, and a liability shield protecting businesses from coronavirus-related lawsuits. The package is not expected to receive the 60 “yea” votes it will need to advance.

The House is not in session.

The Supreme Court is on summer recess.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden will attend virtual fundraisers.

Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris will travel to Miami, Florida, to host a community conversation discussing “the challenges facing the African-American community in South Florida.” In the evening, she will attend virtual fundraisers.

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