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Wake Up To Politics - April 24, 2019

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Wednesday, April 24, 2019. 285 days until the 2020 Iowa caucuses. 559 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at gabe@wakeuptopolitics.com.

Trump escalates dispute with House investigators

After days of his administration stonewalling investigative requests from House Democrats, President Donald Trump escalated the dispute on Wednesday in an interview with The Washington Post.

Trump told The Post that he is opposed to current and former White House aides testifying before congressional panels, saying that the investigations run by House Democrats were unnecessary now that special counsel Robert Mueller had completed his probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election and Trump's potentially obstructive conduct in office.  

"There is no reason to go any further, and especially in Congress where it's very partisan — obviously very partisan," he said.

Trump's comments — which essentially amounted to a directive from the head of the executive branch for his underlings to ignore oversight requests from the legislative branch — come as his administration is fighting a multiple-front war with Democratic investigators. Here are the main disputes playing out this week:

  • The House Oversight Committee issued a subpoena requesting former White House personnel security director Carl Kline to testify before the panel on Tuesday about the security clearance process he oversaw. Kline did not show up, following instructions from the White House. Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-MD) responded by saying he would consult with members of the panel about scheduling a vote to hold Kline in contempt of Congress.
  • The House Judiciary Committee issued a subpoena on Monday for former White House counsel Don McGahn to testify about events and issues detailed in the Mueller report. According to The Post, the White House "plans to fight" the subpoena.
  • The Treasury Department on Tuesday missed a second deadline set by the House Ways and Means Committee to hand over President Trump's tax returns, which chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) formally requested under a 1924 law. Treasury Secretary Mnuchin told Neal in a letter on Tuesday that he would make a final decision on whether to provide the tax returns by May 6.

These disputes further raise the temperature in what was already a fraught relationship between the president and the gavel-wielding House Democrats.

Trump told The Post that the White House counsel's office had yet to make a "final, final decision" about whether it would formally assert executive privilege to block House committees from forcing administration officials to testify, but the newspaper reported that White House lawyers were expected to take that route.  

However, since the White House has not asserted executive privilege yet, Oversight Committee chairman Cummings argued in a statement on Tuesday that they had no legal grounds to block Kline and other officials from testifying. "It appears that the President believes that the Constitution does not apply to his White House, that he may order officials at will to violate their legal obligations, and that he may obstruct attempts by Congress to conduct oversight," the Maryland Democrat said. "It also appears that the White House believes that it may dictate to Congress — an independent and co-equal branch of government — the scope of its investigations and even the rules by which it conducts them."

According to Bloomberg, House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) has suggested fining officials personally if they ignore subpoenas.

In an interview at the Time 100 Summit in New York on Tuesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) accused the Trump administration of "engaging in stonewalling of the facts coming to the American people," attempting to block investigations into behavior by Trump that she called "unethical, unctuously, and beneath the dignity of the office that he holds."

But when asked if she would support the House moving forward with initiating impeachment proceedings, as some in her caucus have called for, Pelosi remained cautious. "We're not there yet," she responded.

The Rundown

Supreme Court appears likely to allow citizenship question in 2020 census: "The Supreme Court seemed willing Tuesday to let the Trump administration add a question about citizenship to the 2020 census form that goes to every U.S. household, despite claims from populous states that it would actually make the count less accurate."

"Both the government and the challengers agree that adding the question would reduce the census response rate, especially in immigrant communities. But the court's conservative majority seemed prepared to rule that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross acted within his authority to add it because no method is guaranteed to produce an accurate count." (NBC News)

2020 election security: "In the months before Kirstjen Nielsen was forced to resign, she tried to focus the White House on one of her highest priorities as homeland security secretary: preparing for new and different Russian forms of interference in the 2020 election."

..."But in a meeting this year, Mick Mulvaney, the White House chief of staff, made it clear that Mr. Trump still equated any public discussion of malign Russian election activity with questions about the legitimacy of his victory. According to one senior administration official, Mr. Mulvaney said it 'wasn’t a great subject and should be kept below his level.'" (New York Times)

#TXSEN: "Democrat MJ Hegar, an Air Force veteran whose viral campaign ads nearly helped her get elected in one of Texas’ most Republican-friendly congressional districts last year, set her sights higher on Tuesday and launched a run for U.S. Senate against Republican incumbent John Cornyn."

"Hegar, 43, is the first big-name Democrat to jump into one of 2020′s marquee races. Her decision to run sets up a potential rarity in Texas — a contested Democratic primary near the top of the ticket. U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro is also considering running for the seat and signaled Tuesday that Hegar’s entry wouldn’t influence his decision." (Associated Press)

Headline of the day: "Trump met with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey — and complained about his follower count" (Washington Post)

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White House schedule

--- President and First Lady Trump travel to Atlanta, Georgia today. At 1:15 p.m., they will deliver remarks at the Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit in Atlanta. According to the White House, the Trumps will speak "about their fight to end the opioid crisis in America."

--- Vice President Mike Pence travels to Detroit, Michigan today. At 12 p.m., he participates in a Trump re-election fundraiser. At 1:15 p.m., he participates in a tour of the Ford Moter Company Dearborn Truck Plant. At 2:35 p.m., he delivers remarks to promote the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), the Trump administration's proposed replacement for NAFTA.

Congress schedule

Both chambers of Congress are on recess.

Supreme Court schedule

The Supreme Court justices hear oral arguments in Quarles v. United States and Taggart v. Lorenzen today. In addition, there is a possibility that the justices will issue opinions at 10 a.m.

2020 schedules

A number of Democratic presidential hopefuls will participate in the She the People forum, the first-ever presidential candidate forum focused on women of color, in Houston, Texas today. The forum will include remarks from Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA); Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI); former Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-TX); and former HUD Secretary Julián Castro.

In addition, Booker, Castro, Harris, and Klobuchar will all address the African American Mayors Association (AAMA) annual conference in Houston today.

Also today...

--- Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA) headlines a "Politics and Eggs" event in Bedford, New Hampshire, before traveling to South Carolina, where he will participate in a beach clean up and meet and greet in Isle of Palms and a virtual town hall in Charleston.

--- Sanders holds a rally in Houston.

--- Entrepreneur Andrew Yang visits Las Vegas, Nevada, where he holds a veterans meet and greet, a meet and greet hosted by the state Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and a dinner hosted by the state Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Democratic caucus.

*All times Eastern