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Wake Up To Politics - September 11, 2019

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Wednesday, September 11, 2019. 55 days until Election Day 2019. 145 days until the 2020 Iowa caucuses. 419 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at gabe@wakeuptopolitics.com.

Trump ousts John Bolton as national security adviser

President Donald Trump abruptly announced on Tuesday that he had dismissed John Bolton, his third national security adviser in less than three years at the White House.

"I informed John Bolton last night that his services are no longer needed at the White House," the president said on Twitter, adding Bolton to the list of advisers who he has ousted via tweet. "I disagreed strongly with many of his suggestions, as did others in the Administration, and therefore I asked John for his resignation, which was given to me this morning."

Bolton was quick to dispute Trump's account of his departure, claiming in a tweet of his own: "I offered to resign last night and President Trump said 'Let's talk about it tomorrow.'" He elaborated in a text message to The New York Times: "Offered [my resignation] last night without his asking. Slept on it and gave it to him this morning."

Since appointing Bolton as his national security adviser in April 2018 after watching his sympathetic television appearances on Fox News, Trump clashed frequently with the longtime GOP hawk. According to Politico, the "breaking point for Trump" came after "hearing media accounts about how Bolton had advised the president to scuttle a meeting with Taliban leaders at Camp David," a decision that the president insists was entirely his own.

Bolton reportedly opposed the Taliban meeting vociferously behind the scenes; in addition to how to handle the war in Afghanistan, he and the president also diverged in their stances on global hotspots such as North Korea, Iran, and Russia, as Bolton argued against Trump's willingness to meeting with the autocratic leaders of those countries. "Trump bristled at what he viewed as Bolton’s militant approach, to the point that he made barbed jokes in meetings about his adviser’s desire to get the United States into more wars," per The Times. Bolton's internal operating style reportedly earned him many enemies inside the administration, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo chief among them.

Trump said Tuesday that he will name a new national security adviser, his fourth, next week. Bolton's deputy, Charles Kupperman, will hold the position in an acting capacity until a replacement is named. According to The New York Times, the short list of possible permanent successors to Bolton include Kupperman; Stephen Biegun, the U.S. special representative for North Korea; Brian Hook, the U.S. special representative for Iran; Douglas Macgregor, a retired Army colonel and frequent guest on Fox News; Richard Grenell, the U.S. ambassador to Germany; and even H.R. McMaster, who was ousted from the post to make way for Bolton last year.

NBC News reported on Tuesday that Trump has been in touch with McMaster again as his frustration with Bolton mounted, telling him "that he missed him" in a recent phone call. McMaster served a tumultuous stint as Trump's national security adviser after the three-week tenure of Michael Flynn, who resigned amid the revelation that he lied to the FBI about his communications with a Russian diplomat. Flynn later pleaded guilty to a felony charge; he appeared in court on Tuesday as a judge set his sentencing date and prosecutors suggested that they may recommend for the ex-White House aide to be sentenced to jail time.

Trump's noontime announcement about Bolton's departure reportedly came as a surprise to many in his administration, although it followed months of tension between the two men. "At the White House, those outside the inner sanctum were stunned when Trump’s tweet appeared," The Washington Post reported. "At the Pentagon, there were cheers."

Just an hour before, the White House had told reporters Bolton would appear at a 1:30 p.m. news briefing alongside Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. But by the time the briefing took place, Bolton was already gone.

--- According to a Wake Up To Politics count, Bolton is the 40th Assistant to the President to depart during the Trump administration, including three chiefs of staff, three national security advisers, six deputy chiefs of staff, five deputy national security advisers, five communications directors, and two press secretaries.

The Rundown

Republicans triumph in North Carolina special elections: Republicans held on to two North Carolina House seats in a pair of special elections on Tuesday, in the 3rd and 9th Districts. The latter race (a re-do election after the 2018 results were thrown out due to election fraud) was hotly contested by both parties, with outside groups pouring nearly $11 million into the district. Republican state Sen. Dan Bishop ended up beating Democratic entrepreneur and Marine Corps veteran Dan McCready by two percentage points, 50.7% to 48.7%, a disappointment for Democrats hoping to flip the seat but a potential warning sign for Republicans due to the district's historical partisan proclivity: the seat has been controlled by the GOP since 1963, and Donald Trump won it by 12 percentage points in 2016. Trump, who held a rally for Bishop on Monday, took credit for the victory in a tweet after the race was called.

--- Analysis from the Cook Political Report's Dave Wasserman: "Republicans should feel relieved they avoided a loss, but here's why Bishop's 2% win isn't encouraging: there are 35 GOP-held House seats less Republican than #NC09, per [the Cook Political Report's Partisan Voting Index]."

2020 Central: "Five Democratic contenders lead Donald Trump in head-to-head matchups in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, with several widening their advantage since July. Concerns about the economy, which have pushed down the president’s job approval rating, are a factor."

"Among those tested in the survey, Joe Biden leads Trump by 16 percentage points among all adults, 54-38%, essentially the same as two months ago. Bernie Sanders leads by 12 points, up from 6 in July; as does Elizabeth Warren by 11 points, compared with a slight 7 points previously. Kamala Harris leads by 10 points, while Pete Buttigieg has a slight 6-point edge." (ABC News)

--- "Six in 10 Americans say President Donald Trump does not deserve to be reelected, according to a new CNN Poll conducted by SSRS, and more now say he's doing a poor job than a good one of keeping important campaign promises." (CNN)

--- Trump's approval rating also fell in both the CNN and Washington Post/ABC polls, to 39% and 38%, respectively.  

Trump pushes to address California homelessness: "President Trump has ordered White House officials to launch a sweeping effort to address homelessness in California, citing the state’s growing crisis, according to four government officials aware of the effort."

"The planning has intensified in recent weeks. Administration officials have discussed using the federal government to get homeless people off the streets of Los Angeles and other cities and into new government-backed facilities, according to two officials briefed on the planning."

"But it is unclear how they could accomplish this and what legal authority they would use. It is also unclear whether the state’s Democratic politicians would cooperate with Trump, who has sought to embarrass them over the homelessness crisis with repeated attacks on their competency." (The Washington Post)

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Today at the White House

--- At 8:40 a.m., President and First Lady Trump participate in a moment of silence on the South Lawn of the White House marking the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. At 9:30 a.m., they will participate in a ceremony at the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial. At 1:30 p.m., the president receives his daily intelligence briefing.

--- At 10:30 a.m., Vice President Mike Pence will deliver remarks at a ceremony at the Flight 93 National Memorial near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

Today in Congress

--- The Senate convenes at 9:30 a.m today. At 11 a.m., the chamber will vote to confirm three presidential nominees:

  • Stephen Akard, to be Director of the Office of Foreign Missions at the State Department
  • Dale Cabaniss, to be Director of the Office of Personnel Management
  • James Byrne to be Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

At 2:45 p.m., the chamber will hold cloture votes advancing three nominations:

  • Michelle Bowman, to be a Member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System
  • Thomas Feddo, to be Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Investment Security
  • Jennifer Nordquist, to be U.S. Executive Director of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development

The Senate will then vote to confirm six judicial nominees, which will bring the total of Trump-appointed district court judges to 105:

  • Stephanie L. Haines, to be a U.S. District Judge for the Western District of Pennsylvania
  • Ada E. Brown, to be a U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of Texas
  • Steven D. Grimberg, to be a U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of Georgia
  • Steven C. Seeger, to be a U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of Illinois
  • Mary S. McElroy, to be a U.S. District Judge for the District of Rhode Island
  • Stephanie A. Gallagher, to be a U.S. District Judge for the District of Maryland

--- The House convenes at 10 a.m. today. The chamber is scheduled to consider two pieces of legislation:

  • H.R. 1941 – Coastal and Marine Economies Protection Act
  • H.R. 205 – Protecting and Securing Florida’s Coastline Act of 2019

The House, led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), will hold a moment of silence on the Capitol steps at 8:46 a.m. to observe the anniversary of 9/11.

Today on the trail

--- Former Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) campaigns in New Hampshire, attending meetings with local Democrats in Nottingham, Barrington, and Weare.

---  Former hedge fund manager Tom Steyer visits Columbia, South Carolina, participating in a volunteer opportunity and attending a meet and greet with African-American entrepreneurs hosted by Mayor Pro Tem Tameika Isaac Devine.


--- In Monday's newsletter, I incorrectly reported the state that former Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) was campaigning in that day. He was visiting New Hampshire.

--- In Tuesday's newsletter, I incorrectly reported that the Senate was voting that day to confirm Kelly Craft to be U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Craft was confirmed as ambassador in July; Tuesday's vote was to additionally confirm her appointment as the U.S. Representative to the upcoming United Nations General Assembly

*All times Eastern