4 min read

Wake Up To Politics - April 11, 2019

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Thursday, April 11, 2019. 298 days until the 2020 Iowa caucuses. 572 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at gabe@wakeuptopolitics.com.

The Investigations

Breaking: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was arrested this morning at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, where he had lived for seven years, after Ecuador withdrew the asylum it had long granted him. The London Police has confirmed that Assange was "arrested on behalf of the United States authorities"; he faces criminal charges in the U.S. that were accidentally revealed by prosecutors last year. Assange has emerged as a key figure in the Russia probe, suspected of possibly aiding Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election by releasing thousands of emails stolen from top Democrats during the 2016 campaign. In July 2018, special counsel Robert Mueller charged 12 Russian intelligence officers for hacking the emails, and contended that the officers "discussed the release of the stolen documents and the timing of those releases with Organization 1" — WikiLeaks — "to heighten their impact on the 2016 presidential election."

Barr testimony, Day 2: Attorney General William Barr revealed during testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday that he has ordered a Justice Department review into the origins of the Trump-Russia investigation, telling lawmakers that he thinks "spying did occur" by American intelligence agencies on the Trump campaign. Barr did not provide evidence to support that assertion, although President Trump and his allies have made similar claims in the past by pointing to the FBI's surveillance of former Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page. Congressional Democrats immediately called on Barr to retract his statement; House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) called the comments "dismaying," accusing Barr of acting not as "the attorney general of the United States," but as "the attorney general of Donald Trump."

Coming soon... Barr also said that he "hoped" to make special counsel Mueller's report public "next week." Justice Department officials are currently working to redact sensitive information from the report, although the AG said Wednesday that he was willing to work with lawmakers to "accommodate" them on "areas they feel they have a need to have access to the information." Once again, he declined to say whether he has briefed the White House on the report.

Trump tax returns: Wednesday was the deadline set by House Ways and Means Committee chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) for the Treasury Department to turn over six years of President Trump's personal and business tax returns. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told Neal in a letter that he would not be able to comply with the deadline, as he was consulting with the Justice Department on the constitutionality of the request. "The committee’s request raises serious issues concerning the constitutional investigative authority, the legitimacy of the asserted legislative purpose and the constitutional rights of American citizens," he wrote.

Ex-Obama counsel expects indictment: Former Obama White House counsel Greg Craig expects to be indicted as soon as today on charges related to work he performed in Ukraine in 2012, his legal team said Wednesday. The investigation into Craig was an outgrowth of the Mueller probe; he would be the first prominent Democrat to be charged as a result of the special counsel's investigation. Craig served as White House counsel from 2009 to 2010 under President Obama, and as a top lawyer in the Clinton White House directing the team defending Clinton against impeachment.

The Rundown

Trump vs. GOP: "It’s an unusual time in Trump’s Washington, with a Senate Republican majority that’s been at odds with the president for months now — and with GOP senators increasingly comfortable in trying to ward off what they see as Trump’s worst impulses. It’s an inflection point, with Senate Republicans weighing how hard to try to contain the president." (Politico)

--- Senate Republicans are particularly trying to stave off any other high-profile departures at the Department of Homeland Security, where Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and her acting No. 2  have already been ousted this week, along with other officials.

2020 Central: "As a religious gay man who believes his party has ceded discussion of religion and spirituality to Republicans, Pete Buttigieg, a Democratic candidate for president, is talking about God and sexuality in an unconventional way: He is using the language of faith to confront the Christian right on territory they have long claimed as their own." (New York Times)

--- Updated first quarter fundraising numbers for 2020 Democrats: Bernie Sanders, $18.2 million; Kamala Harris, $12 million; Beto O'Rourke, $9.4 million; Pete Buttigieg, $7 million; Elizabeth Warren, $6 million; Amy Klobuchar, $5.2 million; Cory Booker, $5 million; Andrew Yang, $1.7 million

On the world stage: "President Trump congratulated Benjamin Netanyahu for what Trump called the long-serving Israeli prime minister’s probable victory in a close reelection contest, saying Wednesday that a Netanyahu victory increases the chances for a peace agreement." (Washington Post)

Do you like Wake Up To Politics? Share it with your colleagues, friends, and family! Please forward this newsletter to them and tell them to sign up at wakeuptopolitics.com/subscribe!

White House schedule

POTUS: President and First Lady Trump host South Korean President Moon Jae-in and his wife Kim Jung-sook at the White House today. At 12:10 p.m., the foursome will meet in the Oval Office. At 12:40 p.m., Presidents Trump and Moon will participate in an expanded bilateral working lunch in the Cabinet Room. According to the White House, the two presidents will discuss the latest developments in North Korea.

At 2:15 p.m., President Trump greets World War II veterans in the Oval Office.

VP: Vice President Pence will meet with President Moon at the Blair House (across the street from the White House) at 10:30 a.m. He will then travel to Nogales, Arizona, where he will participate in a briefing from U.S. Border Patrol at 4:35 p.m. and visit the U.S.-Mexico border at 4:05 p.m.

Congress schedule

Senate: The Senate convenes at 10 a.m. today. The chamber is expected to vote on confirmation of David Bernhardt to be Secretary of the Interior. Bernhardt has served as Deputy Interior Secretary since August 2017, and has led the department in an acting capacity since Ryan Zinke's resignation in January. His nomination was advanced by a 56-43 vote on Wednesday, with three Democrats voting in his favor. Bernhardt is currently under investigation by the Interior Department's inspector general for allegations that he "may have violated his ethics pledge by weighing in on issues affecting a former [lobbying] client," according to the Washington Post.

House: The House is not in session today, while Democrats decamp to Lansdowne, Virginia for their annual retreat.

Supreme Court schedule

The justices have no oral arguments or conferences scheduled for today.

*All times Eastern

Thanks so much to everyone who has already filled out the Wake Up To Politics podcast survey! If you didn't have a chance to weigh in, you can find the survey here.