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Wake Up To Politics - September 5, 2018

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Wednesday, September 5, 2018. 62 days until Election Day 2018. 790 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at gabe@wakeuptopolitics.com.

Pressley defeats veteran House Democrat in Massachusetts primary

Another House Democratic incumbent was defeated by a progressive challenger on Tuesday, as Boston city councilor Ayanna Pressley toppled 10-term Rep. Mike Capuano. Pressley, who is unopposed in the general election, will become the first African-American woman to represent Massachusetts in Congress.

Capuano, 66, was a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and boasted one of the most liberal voting records in Congress; his defeat by Pressley, 44, was less about ideological daylight between the two and more about generational change.

"You saw what I saw: That these times demanded more from our leaders and our party," Pressley told supporters Tuesday night. "It's not just good enough to see the Democrats back in power. It matters who those Democrats are." Her campaign slogan, "change can't wait," dismissed those who urged her not to wage a campaign until it was her turn.

"Clearly, the district wanted a lot of change," Capuano said in his concession speech.

A poll last month found Capuano winning the primary race by a 13-point margin; instead, she triumphed by double digits, 58.9% to 41.1%.

Capuano, who has served in the House since 1999, is the second House Democrat to be defeated in a primary race this year, following the upset win by activist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez over House Democratic Caucus chairman Joseph Crowley (D-NY) in June. Ocasio-Cortez backed Pressley, who has also been linked to a crop of African-American progressives who have won other Democratic primaries this year (often beating more establishment candidates in upsets), such as House candidate Jahana Hayes of Connecticut and gubernatorial candidates Stacey Abrams of Florida, Andrew Gillum of Florida, and Ben Jealous of Maryland.

White House braces for new Woodward book

Excerpts began to be released on Tuesday of legendary political journalist Bob Woodward's upcoming book on the Trump White House, "Fear." Here are some of the most explosive revelations from the book, via the Washington Post, New York Times, and CNN:

  • On two occasions, former National Economic Council director Gary Cohn stole documents off of President Trump's desk to prevent him from signing them: a letter that would have withdrawn the U.S. from a trade agreement with South Korea, and another that would have withdrawn the U.S. from NAFTA.
  • President Trump ordered Defense Secretary James Mattis to assassinate Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad after an April 2017 chemical attack on civilians; Mattis ignored the order.
  • Defense Secretary James Mattis likened President Trump's intelligence to that of "a fifth or sixth grader."
  • White House chief of staff John Kelly has told colleagues that he thought the president was "unhinged" and once said in a meeting: "He’s an idiot. It’s pointless to try to convince him of anything. He’s gone off the rails. We’re in Crazytown. I don’t even know why any of us are here. This is the worst job I’ve ever had.”
  • Trump's former personal lawyer John Dowd described the president as "a f---ing lawyer" and told him he would end up in an "orange jump suit" if he testified to special counsel Robert Mueller.
  • Trump referred to his speech walking back his comments on Charlottesville, in which he condemned white supremacists and neo-Nazis, as "the biggest f---ing mistake I've made" and the "worst speech I've ever given."
  • Trump labeled Attorney General Jeff Sessions a "traitor," and once called him "mentally retarded" and a "dumb Southerner," mocking his accent.

President Trump quickly began attacking the author's credibility — despite the publication of the transcript of an August phone call between him and Woodward in which he praises the journalist. Trump has sent eight tweets about the book, suggesting Woodward is a "Dem operative" who relied on "so many lies and phony sources" and sharing denials from other administration officials.

  • White House press secretary Sarah Sanders: "This book is nothing more than fabricated stories, many by former disgruntled employees, told to make the President look bad."
  • White House chief of staff John Kelly: "The idea I ever called the President an idiot is not true, in fact it's exactly the opposite."
  • Defense Secretary James Mattis: "The contemptuous words about the President attributed to me in Woodward's book were never uttered by me or in my presence."

The White House's denials were similar to those issued after the publications of other tell-all books about the administration, such as "Fire and Fury" and "Unhinged." But unlike with the authors of those books, Michael Wolff and Omarosa Manigault Newman, Trump will have a more difficult time tarnishing Woodward, who has published books about multiple previous presidents and is known for his exhaustive fact-checking.

"Fear," which is already No. 1 on Amazon's best-seller list, will be published on September 11.

Kavanaugh hearings open to raucous start

Via the Washington Post:

"The confirmation hearings of Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh launched Tuesday as a bitter political brawl, with loud objections from Democratic senators, the arrests of dozens of protesters and questions even from some Republicans about how Kavanaugh would separate himself from President Trump, the man who chose him."

"But GOP senators mostly calmly defended Kavanaugh from what Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) called the Shakespearean nature of the hearing — “sound and fury, signifying nothing” — confident that there were no defections from the solid Republican support Kavanaugh needs to be confirmed as the Supreme Court’s 114th justice."

"The 53-year-old judge, who serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, sat impassively for nearly seven hours of senators’ statements before speaking for less than 20 minutes. Senators plan to begin questioning him Wednesday morning."

..."The chairman’s opening remarks were delayed for nearly an hour and a half as Democratic senators sought to cut off the hearings, raising an uproar over a last-minute document dump sent to the Judiciary Committee late Monday encompassing more than 42,000 pages from the nominee’s tenure in the George W. Bush White House."

--- The hearings continue at 9:30am today, when questioning from the Senate Judiciary Committee's 21 members will begin.

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The Rundown

Russia investigation: "The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, eased up slightly on his demands to question President Trump in the Russia investigation... Mr. Mueller will accept written answers from Mr. Trump on questions about whether his campaign conspired with Russia’s election interference, Mr. Mueller’s office told the president’s lawyers in a letter, two people briefed on it said on Tuesday." (New York Times)

Wray: "In recent conversations with confidants, President Donald Trump has added FBI Director Christopher Wray to his list of key members of his administration whom he complains about, three people familiar with the discussions tell NBC News." (NBC News)

Emanuel: "Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel made a surprise announcement on Tuesday that he will not seek re-election to a third term, opening up the city’s venerable Fifth Floor to an outsider candidate for the first time in decades." (Politico)

White House schedule

POTUS: At 11:30am, President Trump receives his intelligence briefing. At 1:45pm, he participates in the arrival of the Amir of Kuwait, His Highness Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah. At 1:50pm, Trump meets with the Amir, followed by an expanded bilateral meeting at 2:05pm. According to a White House statement, "His Highness is leading a Kuwaiti delegation to the United States to discuss trade, investment, and security cooperation." At 2:45pm, the president participates in the departure of the Amir.

At 3:30pm, President Trump meets with Republican congressional leadership. The group is expected to discuss the looming shutdown deadline.

Congress schedule

Senate: The Senate meets at 12pm today. At about 12:15pm, the chamber is scheduled to vote on confirmation of Elad Roisman to be a member of the Securities and Exchange Commission. Roisman currently serves as chief counsel tot he Senate Banking Committee, which unanimously approved his nomination last month.

Following the vote, Jon Kyl — who was appointed by Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey on Tuesday to fill the remainder of John McCain's term — will be sworn in as a Senator from Arizona. This will be Kyl's second stint in the chamber, having served in the Senate from 1995 to 2013. From 2007 until his retirement, Kyl served as Senate Minority Whip, the chamber's No. 2 Republican position.  

--- Also today: the Senate Intelligence Committee will hold a much-awaited hearing at 9:30am on "Foreign Influence Operations' Use of Social Media Platforms," with testimony from Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. At 1:30pm, Dorsey will testify at a separate hearing held by the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

House: The House meets at 10am today. The chamber will consider four pieces of legislation: the Embassy Security Authorization Act, the Cyber Deterrence and Response Act, the Global Electoral Exchange Act, and the Empowering Students Through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act.

In addition, the newest member of the House will also be sworn in today: Ohio Republican Troy Balderson, who won a special election to succeed Pat Tiberi last month.

Supreme Court schedule

The Supreme Court is on its summer recess.

*All times Eastern