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Wake Up To Politics - September 22, 2017

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It's Friday, September 22, 2017. 410 days until Election Day 2018. 1,138 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!

As you may have noticed, no edition of Wake Up To Politics was published on Thursday during the observance of Rosh Hashanah. I'm back today, with a special Friday twist on the news — driven by President Trump's Witter feed...

What the President is thinking about...

A look at the news, via President Donald Trump's tweets this morning:

Health Care

  • Trump's first tweet this morning was on the renewed GOP push to repeal the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. The White House continues to exert pressure on undecided Republican senators, urging them to support the Graham-Cassidy bill. This morning, Trump was tweeting about Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who voted for the "skinny repeal" bill in July but has been very critical of this legislation.
  • Graham-Cassidy is expected to receive a Senate vote next week, Republicans' last shot at repealing Obamacare before their ability to avoid a filibuster on the bill expires on September 30. The three senators who opposed "skinny repeal," Sens. John McCain (R-AZ), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Susan Collins (R-ME), remain undecided. If Paul votes against the bill, two of them are needed to vote "yea" in order for it to receive 50 votes (Vice President Mike Pence can offer a tie-breaking 51st vote). The legislation's sponsors are reportedly working to persuade Murkowski to support the bill by offering Alaska and other low-population states protection from Medicaid cuts.
  • Meanwhile, the bill — which aims to give more control over health care to the states —​ is opposed by the major trade groups for insurers, the American Medical Association, the American Hopsital Association, AARP, and late-night host Jimmy Kimmel.

North Korea

  • Next, the President tweeted about North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, threatening to test the dictator "like never before." In his address to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, Trump vowed to "totally destroy" North Korea if the United Stats is "forced to defend itself or its allies." He also referred to Kim as "Rocket Man," and to the North Korean governemtn as a "band of criminals."
  • Kim responded this morning in a statement released by the state news agency, "believed to be the first time a North Korean leader directly issued a stateent to the world under his name," according to the New York Times. Kim responded to Trump's moniker in kind, calling the President a "mentally deranged U.S. dotard" and "a rogue and a gangster fond of playing with fire, rather than a politician."
  • The North Korean leader also promised that the United States will "pay dearly" for the threats in Trump's speech. Speaking on the sidelines of the United Nations meeting in New York, North Korea's foreign minister, Ri Yong Ko, told reporters that the governemnt was considerign responding by conductning "a historic aboveground test of a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific Ocean."

Media Criticism/Russia

  • President Trump also found time this morning to criticize his favorite target (the media) and talk about his favorite topic (the 2016 election). He also dropped in a reference to the latest development in the investigations of ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced on Thursay that the social media company has agreed to hand over information to Congress on Russian-purchased ads that played a role in the Kremlin's effort to influence the 2016 presidential campaign.
  • Facebook annonced earlier this month that Russian-backed groups paid $150,000 to buy 5,200 ads on the site during the 2016 campaign. These advertisements are being investigated by Special Counsel Robert Mueller and a number of congressional probes.

Alabama Senate race

  • Finally, President Trump previewed his trip today to Huntsville, Alabama, where he will hold a rally for Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL). Strange was appointed on an interim basis to fill the vacancy caused by Jeff Sessions' appointment to Trump's Cabinet in January. He is now running in the special primary election on Tuesday to permanently win the seat, facing former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, a fellow Republican.
  • Strange has received key endorsements from Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), although Moore boasts support from Steve Bannon, the former Trump White House chief strategist turned Breitbart News chairman, and other early Trump supporters.
  • Strange repeatedly slipped in mentions to his presidential endorsement at a debate on Thursday, while former Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK) and former Trump adviser Sebastian Gorka praised Moore as the true candidate of the Trump agenda in a rally for the controverisal ex-justice later that day.
  • Polls show an increasingly tight race, with Moore in the lead.

Coming soon... Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon will travel to St. Louis on Sunday, amid recent tensions in the city. I will be covering Bannon's speech, tweeting at @WakeUp2Politics and featuring a full report of the event in Monday's newsletter.