First Read is your briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Trump vs. Senate Republicans: A Timeline
WASHINGTON — Over the last three months, how bad has President Trump’s relationship with Senate Republicans become — as Trump attends a policy lunch with them at 1:00 pm ET to discuss their tax plan? Here’s a helpful timeline:
- July 25: In a speech calling for a return to regular order in the Senate, Sen. John McCain says: "Whether or not we are of the same party, we are not the president’s subordinates. We are his equal!"
- July 26: Trump criticizes Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s procedural vote against health care. "Senator @lisamurkowski of the Great State of Alaska really let the Republicans, and our country, down yesterday. Too bad!"
- July 28: Senate health-care bill fails with McCain casting the deciding "no" vote (along with Murkowski and Sen. Susan Collins).
- July 31: In a new book, Sen. Jeff Flake makes scalding comments about his own party’s acceptance of Trump.
- Aug. 10: Trump goes after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell: "Can you believe that Mitch McConnell, who has screamed Repeal & Replace for 7 years, couldn't get it done. Must Repeal & Replace ObamaCare!" Speaking to reporters later, Trump won't say if McConnell should step down as majority leader.
- Aug. 17: Sen. Bob Corker criticizes Trump's handling of the unrest in Charlottesville: "The President has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful"
- Aug. 22: In Arizona speech, Trump knocks McCain and Flake without naming them: “One vote away — I will not mention any names. Very presidential, isn’t it?... “Nobody wants me to talk about your other senator, who’s weak on borders, weak on crime. So I won’t talk about him.”
- Sept 10: Politico reports that Steve Bannon is plotting primary challenges against GOP Sens. Flake, Dean Heller, Bob Corker and possibly Roger Wicker.
- Sept. 26: Corker announces he won't run for re-election – on the same day that Bannon-backed Roy Moore defeats the Trump-backed Luther Strange in Alabama's GOP Senate runoff, and that McConnell says Republicans don't have the votes to pass the Graham-Cassidy health-care bill.
- Oct. 8: Corker, in an interview with the New York Times, says Trump was treating his office like “a reality show,” with reckless threats toward other countries that could set the nation “on the path to World War III.”
- Oct. 13: Collins announces she’s remaining in the Senate. “I have concluded that the best way that I can contribute to these priorities is to remain a member of the United States Senate."
- Oct. 16: Trump, with McConnell standing next to him, says he's "closer than ever before" to the majority leader. "We've been friends for a long time. We are probably now, despite what we read, we're probably now — I think, at least as far as I'm concerned -- closer than ever before. And the relationship is very good."
- Oct. 18: Trump calls Sens. John Barrasso, Deb Fisher and Wicker to offer his support if they receive primary challenges
- Oct. 23: Corker tells NBC's Leigh Ann Caldwell that Trump's meeting today with Senate Republicans is nothing more than a photo-op: “Tomorrow’s a photo-op - nothing more, nothing less. To read anything more into it would be spending a lot of time on something that shouldn’t be spent a lot of time on. Look, it’s going to be up and down for the next three years and that’s just the way it’s going to be. I don’t read anything into tomorrow other than a photo-op.”
- Oct. 24: After Corker suggests on “Today” that Republicans are better off on passing tax reform with less involvement from Trump and the White House, the president tweets: “Bob Corker, who helped President O give us the bad Iran Deal & couldn't get elected dog catcher in Tennessee, is now fighting Tax Cuts....”
Corker: Trump must be contained to prevent a world war
That’s what the senator also said on “Today” this morning when he was asked about his previous “World War III” comments:
Guthrie: Left to his own devices, do you think the president is a threat to national security?Corker: I think that there are people who are around him who work in an effort to contain him – that would be Secretary Mattis, Tillerson and General Kelly there as chief of staff.Guthrie: That almost seems to accept the premise of the question: He needs to be contained?Corker: I do think, when you're having the kind of issue we're having with North Korea where we have a very unstable leader there, when you send out tweets into the region to raise tension, when you kneecap your secretary of state whose diplomacy you have to depend upon … you really move our country into a binary choice which could lead to a world war.
Niger attack was likely a set-up by terrorists
NBC’s Courtney Kube, Carol Lee and Ken Dilanian: “An emerging theory among U.S. military investigators is that the Army Special Forces soldiers ambushed in Niger were set up by terrorists, who were tipped off in advance about a meeting in a village sympathetic to local ISIS affiliates, three U.S. officials who have been briefed on the matter told NBC News.”
“The group of American Green Berets and support soldiers had requested a meeting with elders of a village that was seen as supportive of ISIS, and they attended the meeting at around 11 a.m. local time on Oct. 4, after a long night of patrolling, the officials said. Such meetings are a routine part of the Green Beret mission, but it wasn't clear whether this meeting was part of the unit's plan.”
Bernie Sanders is running as an independent in 2018 — after promising not to three years ago
Over the weekend, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., told New Hampshire reporter Paul Steinhauser that he’ll be running for re-election in 2018 as an independent. “I am an independent and I have always run in Vermont as an independent, while I caucus with the Democrats in the United States Senate. That’s what I’ve been doing for a long time and that’s what I’ll continue to do,” Sanders said.
But as NBC’s Kailani Koenig reminds us, Sanders — when he filed to run in the New Hampshire Democratic primary back in November 2015 — told reporters that he’d run as a Democrat in future elections.
REPORTER: In future elections, potential future elections, will you also run as a Democrat?SANDERS: Yes.
Two weeks to go until the Virginia and New Jersey gubernatorial races
We’re two weeks until Election Day 2017, and the restoration of felon rights have become the latest attack from Republican Ed Gillespie.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch: “A marquee policy initiative of Gov. Terry McAuliffe took center stage in the Virginia governor’s race Monday as Republican Ed Gillespie attacked McAuliffe’s approach to felon rights restoration as charitable to the point of being dangerous and Democrat Ralph Northam pushed back by saying Gillespie should be ‘ashamed’ over his ‘fearmongering campaign.’”
“The Gillespie campaign rolled out an ad Monday highlighting the case of a sex offender whose rights were restored late last year, months after he was arrested for having a massive child pornography stash. Gillespie said the case of John Martin Bowen of Accomack County illustrates the flaws in McAuliffe’s expansive approach to rights restoration with minimal screening of individual cases. Northam, the current lieutenant governor, has praised the policy.”