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Wake Up To Politics - April 1, 2019

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Monday, April 1, 2019. 308 days until the 2020 Iowa caucuses. 582 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at gabe@wakeuptopolitics.com.

Biden faces allegations of inappropriate touching

Former Vice President Joe Biden, who is widely expected to join the Democratic presidential primary field later this month, is now mired in questions surrounding the "affectionate and sometimes intimate physical style," as the Washington Post called it, for which he has long been known.

The renewed discussion was sparked by Nevada Democratic politician Lucy Flores, who published a piece in New York Magazine on Friday describing Biden smelling her hair and kissing her head at a 2014 event for her lieutenant gubernatorial campaign. "He made me feel uneasy, gross, and confused," she wrote, "touch[ing] me in an intimate way reserved for close friends, family, or romantic partners — and I felt powerless to do anything about it."

Biden initially responded in a written statement through his spokesperson, who said the former vice president and his staff did not "have an inkling that Ms. Flores had been at any time uncomfortable, nor do they recall what she describes." But by Sunday, as the New York Times referred to the "quickly growing crisis" he was in, Biden put out a statement of his own, acknowledging that he had offered "expressions of affection" at public events throughout the years but did not believe that he had ever "acted inappropriately."

But "if it is suggested I did so, I will listen respectfully," he continued, adding: "I may not recall these moments the same way, and I may be surprised at what I hear. But we have arrived at an important time when women feel they can and should relate their experiences, and men should pay attention. And I will."

In an interview with Politico, Flores pointed to photos and videos of Biden expressing affection with other women through the years, which have long been in the public domain but may now look different in light of the #MeToo movement. "It's so easy to Google "Creepy Biden" and you get all these complications of pictures and video evidence of young women and women looking very, very uncomfortable," she said.

However, a woman in one of the photos with Biden that has been most publicized — Stephanie Carter, wife of former Defense Secretary Ash Carter — penned a Medium post Sunday night saying the image was "misleadingly extracted from what was a longer moment between close friends" that did not make her uncomfortable.

Biden's prospective 2020 opponents have begun to weigh in on the allegations, expressing sympathy for Flores. "I believe Lucy Flores," Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) declared at an Iowa event on Saturday. "And Joe Biden needs to give an answer."

More 2020 news...

  • The first fundraising quarter of the 2020 campaign ended on Sunday night, and candidates will now begin to report how much money they've raised over the past three months. The first one out of the gate: Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who announced on Twitter that his exploratory committee had raised over $7 million since launching on January 23. Buttigieg's announcement comes amid a flurry of media profiles about his attention-grabbing campaign for the presidency as a 37-year-old openly gay mayor from the Midwest.
  • Meanwhile... "Elizabeth Warren Loses Finance Director as She Struggles in Early Fund-Raising" (New York Times)
  • Plus, a good read on where the race stands right now: "After three months, surprises mark the Democratic presidential campaign" (Washington Post)

Barr: Mueller report to be released in mid-April

Attorney General William Barr told lawmakers in a letter on Friday that special counsel Robert Mueller's report on Russian election interference will be released by mid-April, "if not sooner." Barr also disclosed that the report "is nearly 400 pages long" and "sets forth the special counsel's findings, his analysis, and the reasons for his conclusions."

Mueller ended his investigation last month, resulting in a firestorm of calls from congressional Democrats for his full report to be made public immediately. In a letter announcing the probe's end, Barr said that Mueller did not find evidence that the Trump campaign conspired with Russia during the 2016 election and did not come to a conclusion as to whether the president obstructed justice — but no other findings from his two-year-long investigation were released.

House Democratic committee chairs set a deadline of April 2 for Barr to release the full report, but the attorney general said that would not be possible, as his team is currently making redactions to the report, identifying classified material and secret testimony that cannot be made public. "Everyone will soon be able to read it on their own," Barr wrote.

New this morning... President Trump continues his post-Mueller victory lap on Twitter, posting: "Now that the long awaited Mueller Report conclusions have been released, most Democrats and others have gone back to the pre-Witch Hunt phase of their lives before Collusion Delusion took over. Others are pretending that their former hero, Bob Mueller, no longer exists!"

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White House schedule

--- At 11:45 a.m., President Trump meets with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. At 12:30 p.m., he has lunch with Vice President Mike Pence. At 1:45 p.m., he receives his daily intelligence briefing. At 5:30 p.m., he participates in the 2019 Prison Reform Summit and a celebration of the First Step Act, the bipartisan criminal justice reform package he signed into law last year.  

--- In addition to his 12:30 p.m. lunch with the president, at 6:50 p.m., Vice President Pence will deliver remarks at the BakerHostetler Legislative Dinner at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

Congress schedule

--- The Senate convenes at 3 p.m. today. At 5:30 p.m., the chamber will hold a procedural vote on H.R. 268, a $13.5 billion relief package to provide aid for natural disasters "from volcanic eruptions in Hawaii and wildfires in California, to hurricanes in Florida and Georgia and flooding in the Midwest, among other calamities," according to the Washington Post. The measure will require 60 votes to advance, but many Democrats are objecting to the legislation because it only allocates $600 million for Puerto Rico's food stamp program. They are accusing the Trump administration and congressional Republicans of not designating enough aid for the island, which is recovering from two hurricanes in recent months, especially in light of reported comments made by the president at a Senate Republican lunch last week saying the amount of aid going to Puerto Rico was too high.

--- The House convenes at 12 p.m. today. The chamber is expected to vote today on four pieces of legislation:

  1. H.R. 1433 – DHS MORALE Act, as amended
  2. H.R. 1593 – CLASS Act of 2019, as amended
  3. H.R. 1590 – Terrorist and Foreign Fighter Travel Exercise Act of 2019, as amended
  4. H.R. 1589 – CBRN Intelligence and Information Sharing Act of 2019, as amended

Supreme Court schedule

The Supreme Court is scheduled to release orders at 9:30 a.m. today, and could release opinions at 10 a.m.

*All times Eastern