8 min read

Wake Up To Politics - September 20, 2017

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It's Wednesday, September 20, 2017. 412 days until Election Day 2018. 1,140 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 Targets Regimes in "America First" Address to UN

  • President Donald Trump addressed the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, speaking at length about the threats facing the United States and nations around the globe.
  • "We meet at a time of both immense promise and great peril," Trump said. "It is entirely up to us whether we lift the world to new heights, or let it fall into a valley of disrepair."
  • Trump praised the "beautiful vision" of the United Nations — an institution he has criticized in the past — as a place where "countries with different values, different cultures, and different dreams not just coexist, but work side by side on the basis of mutual respect," while still maintaining their sovereignty.
  • In his first address to the world body, the President introduced his foreign policy. "In foreign affairs, we are renewing this founding principle of sovereignty," Trump said, adding later: "As President of the United States, I will always put America first, just like you, as the leaders of your countries will always, and should always, put your countries first." As part of this "America First" ideology, Trump addressed the disparity in UN dues, saying that the United States "bears an unfair cost burden" and warning that "we can no longer be taken advantage of."
  • He also showered praise on the American idea of government, adding that "in America, we do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example for everyone to watch."
  • Trump focused much of the address on "rogue regimes that violate every principle on which the United Nations is based" and "authoritarian powers" seeking to destroy "the values, the systems, and alliances " that have led the world since World War II. "America stands with every person living under a brutal regime," he said. "Our respect for sovereignty is also a call for action. All people deserve a government that cares for their safety, their interests, and their wellbeing, including their prosperity."
  • He singled out North Korea as the top threat to the United States and other nations. "No one has shown more contempt for other nations and for the wellbeing of their own people than the depraved regime in North Korea," President Trump said. "It is responsible for the starvation deaths of millions of North Koreans, and for the imprisonment, torture, killing, and oppression of countless more."
  • He referred to the North Korean government as a "band of criminals," calling it "an outrage" that nations would "arm, supply, and financially support a country that imperils the world with nuclear conflict."
  • Trump also threatened the rogue nation, saying if the United States "is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but totally destroy North Korea." And he employed the nickname for North Korean leader Kim Jong Un debuted on Twitter over the weekend, declaring: "Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime."
  • President Trump's other top target in his address was Iran, which he called a "reckless regime" that "speaks openly of mass murder, vowing death to America, destruction to Israel, and ruin for many leaders and nations in this room." Trump urged other nations to join the United States in ensuring Iran does not continue expanding its nuclear arsenal, criticizing the nuclear deal struck between Iran and many world powers, including the U.S. "The Iran Deal was one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into," Trump said. "Frankly, that deal is an embarrassment to the United States, and I don’t think you’ve heard the last of it -- believe me."
  • Trump also spoke about "radical Islamic terrorism," urging the UN to "expose and hold responsible" countries that support and finance terrorist groups. Speaking about his Afghanistan strategy announced last month and other gains made against ISIS in the Middle East, Trump bragged that "our country has achieved more against ISIS in the last eight months than it has in many, many years combined." He took credit for these victories, saying: "I have also totally changed the rules of engagement in our fight against the Taliban and other terrorist groups."
  • In addition to North Korea and Iran, Trump also went after "the criminal regime" of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, "the corrupt and destabilizing regime" in Cuba, and "the socialist Maduro regime" in Venezuela.
  • Trump concluded his 41-minute address with a call to other nations to join the United States against these regimes. Trump urged "a great reawakening of nations" to bring "a renewal of will, a rediscovery of resolve, and a rebirth of devotion."
  • "We will fight together, sacrifice together, and stand together for peace, for freedom, for justice, for family, for humanity," the President pledged, "and for the almighty God who made us all."
  • Quick Analysis We heard very little from Trump on Tuesday that was new: he underlined themes from some of his "greatest hits," reviving his "American First" slogan and "Rocket Man" moniker and repeating criticisms of the United Nations and rogue regimes around the world. But he wove these themes together in a way we haven't heard from him before, using a teleprompter to deliver sharp lines that allowed his varied ideas and themes to become a message to the world. The speech has received praise in many establishment Republican circles for its clarity and strength, while Democrats have panned Trump's threatening rhetoric.

The Latest: Health Care

  • As I was about to hit "send"...  President Donald Trump endorsed the new Republican health care plan in a tweet this morning. "I hope Republican Senators will vote for Graham-Cassidy and fulfill their promise to Repeal & Replace ObamaCare," he wrote. "Money direct to States!"
  • GOP lobbying efforts continue to target Sens. John McCain (R-AZ), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Susan Collins (R-ME), the trio who sunk the "skinny repeal" bill in July. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has already announced plans to oppose this bill, meaning Republicans will need two of the three "skinny repeal" defectors to vote in favor.
  • The bill's path got clearer on Tuesday when Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) announced an end to his bipartisan health care negotiations with Sen. Patty Murray (D-MA).
  • Republicans have ten days to repeal Obamacare with the "reconciliation" process, which expires on September 30; without the procedural ploy, 60 votes will be required to overturn the Affordable Care Act, not 51.

The Rundown

  • Republican budget deal "Senate Republicans reached a deal Tuesday that would allow tax cuts over the next decade, bridging party divides over trade-offs between tax cuts and budget deficits and taking an important step toward tax-overhaul legislation.
  • "Sens. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) and Bob Corker (R., Tenn.), representing opposing fiscal-policy viewpoints in the Senate Budget Committee, said Tuesday that they struck the agreement, which senators said could lead to a committee vote as early as next week.
  • "Mr. Toomey had been seeking tax cuts that might reduce revenues by as much as $2 trillion over a decade. Mr. Corker, more wary of budget deficits, had been arguing for a smaller number. The number could be up to $1.5 trillion in revenue-reducing tax cuts, but neither senator would confirm the figure in advance of a formal announcement." (WSJ)
  • National monuments "Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has recommended that President Trump modify 10 national monuments created by his immediate predecessors, including shrinking the boundaries of at least four western sites, according to a copy of the report obtained by The Washington Post." (WaPo)
  • The Revolving Door "The big five news organizations have passed on offering former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer a job as an exclusive paid contributor... Since Spicer exited the White House, his representatives have been holding individual conversations about the possibility of President Donald Trump's former flack joining one of the major TV networks, which include CBS News, CNN, Fox News, ABC News and NBC News. But 'they won't touch him,' said a media industry executive familiar with those conversations...
  • "There are also talks about a non-scripted reality show in the mix, said one person familiar with the situation." (NBC)
  • Red Feed, Blue Feed Two articles from Tuesday receiving partisan buzz...
  • What The Right is talking about "The IRS used the political views of conservative "tea party" groups trying to get nonprofit status as a reason for extra scrutiny and continued delaying applications until 2013 – long after they said they'd stopped – new federal court filings allege." (The Cincinnati Enquirer)
  • What The Left is talking about "In a sharp departure from his predecessors, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price last week took private jets on five separate flights for official business, at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars more than commercial travel... Price, a frequent critic of federal spending who has been developing a plan for department-wide cost savings, declined to comment." (Politico)

Drip, Drip, Drip

  • Mueller probe continues... Two new reports from Tuesday
  • The Wall Street Journal reports that Special Counsel Robert Mueller interviewed Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein over the summer about his role in the firing of former FBI director James Comey.
  • CNN reported that Mueller's investigation of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort reaches back more than 11 years, revealing that "the FBI's warrant for a July search of Manafort's Alexandria, Virginia, home said the investigation centered on possible crimes committed as far back as January 2006.
  • Trump legal fees Reuters reported on Tuesday that Trump is using funds from his campaign and the Republican National Committee to pay the salaries of his private legal team in the Russia probe.

Picture of the Day

White House chief of staff John Kelly as he listens to President Donald Trump's address before the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday. The Toronto Star's Daniel Dale lined up this photo's timestamp with the speech, and found this reaction was after Trump labeled North Korea a "band of criminals." Kelly has not publicly commented on the speech, but here, as is often the case, a picture is worth one thousand words. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Video of the Day

           Virginia Democratic congressional candidate Dan Helmer released a web ad Monday parodying a scene from the movie "Top Gun." In the ad, Helmer and his wife go after Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA) for her votes on Obamacare and Planned Parenthood, belting out "Barbara, Barbara you know it, You’ve lost that centrist feeling" to (roughly) the tune of "You've Lost That Loving Feeling." The ad, titled "Helmer Zone," was deemed "cringe-worthy" and "painful-to-watch" by the Washington Post, "the worst ad of the 2018 elections" by Slate, and a contender for "worst congressional campaign ad ever" by the Daily Beast. But, hey: at least Helmer got covered in the Washington Post, Slate, and the Daily Beast! Plus, he's trending on YouTube. (Video/Dan Helmer for Congress)

The President's Schedule: Foreign leader meetings

  • President Donald Trump spends another day on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly. Today, Trump will meet with King Abdullah II of Jordan, President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, Prime Minister Theresa May of the United Kingdom, and President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt. He will also attend a working lunch with African leaders.

Today in Congress: Solicitor General confirmation

  • Recess! The House and Senate currently have a host of issues before them — health care, tax reform, immigration, defense funding, and more — so naturally, they are both on recess. The lower chamber is out on a District Work Period, returning on Monday. The upper chamber was scheduled to meet today, but then leave town due to the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah, which is Thursday. Instead, the Senate is adjourned until Monday as well (although a pro forma session will be held on Thursday, with no business conducted).