6 min read

Wake Up To Politics - April 9, 2019

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Tuesday, April 9, 2019. 300 days until the 2020 Iowa caucuses. 574 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at gabe@wakeuptopolitics.com.

Editor's Note: Podcast survey

Exciting announcement: I am currently working with the great people at St. Louis Public Radio to create a podcast that will highlight and explain largely unseen and misunderstand parts of the political process. We're hoping to get insight from the Wake Up To Politics readership about your podcast listening habits and what you might want to hear about in a podcast from me. If you have a few moments, it would be greatly appreciated if you could fill out this survey so we can learn more! Thank you so much! — Gabe

Secret Service chief ousted amid major DHS shakeup

U.S. Secret Service Director Randolph D. "Tex" Alles was removed from his position by the White House on Monday, the latest Department of Homeland Security (DHS) official to depart amid a major shakeup at the agency.

Alles' announced departure came one day after the resignation of DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and three days after the withdrawal of Ronald Vitiello's nomination to be Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). According to CNN, President Donald Trump "instructed" acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, to fire Alles. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders formally announced on Monday that Alles "will be leaving shortly," to be succeeded by longtime Secret Service agent James M. Murray.

According to The New York Times, "at least two to four more high-ranking figures affiliated with Nielsen [are] expected to leave soon," as part of "a purge of the nation's immigration and security leadership." The next officials expected to go, according to The Times, are L. Francis Cissna, the Director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS); Kathy Nuebel Kovarik, the chief of the Office of Policy and Strategy at USCIS; and John Mitnick, the General Counsel of DHS.

In addition, CBS News reported that DHS Undersecretary for Management Claire Grady is also part of the purge. Grady would be the next official in line to take over as the department's Acting Secretary after Nielsen's ouster; her exit would clear the way for the president's preferred choice to succeed Nielsen — Kevin McAleenan, the Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) — to claim the role.

"They are decapitating the entire department," one DHS official told The Washington Post.

Trump's restructuring of his top homeland security officials comes as he has expressed frustration publicly and privately about the surge of migrants seeking to cross the U.S.-Mexico border. The president — guided by White House senior policy adviser and immigration hardliner Stephen Miller, reportedly a chief architect of the DHS shakeup — is now expected to "take controversial new steps to curb illegal immigration, including an updated version of his furiously criticized family separation policy," per Politico.

According to NBC News, Trump has been urging his administration "for months" to reinstate the family separation policy; Nielsen had resisted, pointing to court orders prohibiting such a move, but the president could now move forward with her out of the way. The Washington Post reported that DHS officials are considering implementing a plan known as "binary choice," which would "give migrant parents the option of remaining detained as a family or agreeing to a separation so that their children would not remain in immigration custody."

But Trump's renewed push for hardline immigration policies will likely run into legal trouble, as Nielsen reportedly warned him in the waning months of her tenure. (According to CNN, the president told border agents at an event with border agents last week to ignore judicial orders to let migrants in the country. "Sorry, judge, I can't do it," Trump reportedly told the agents to say. "We don't have the room.") As if to show the legal challenges Trump is likely to continue facing on immigration, his latest setback came just on Monday, when a federal judge blocked Nielsen's "Remain in Mexico" program that sought to force Central American asylum seekers to wait on the Mexican side of the border as their asylum claims were processed.

Many of Trump's top allies on Capitol Hill were "alarmed" by reports of the DHS purge, according to Politico, with some GOP lawmakers telling reporters that they don't see how removing the agency's entire leadership structure will advance the president's immigration agenda. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) told The Washington Post that he is "very, very concerned" about the reports, defending the officials next on the chopping block as "good public servants"

"The president has to have some stability and particularly with the number one issue that he’s made for his campaign, throughout his two and a half years of presidency," Grassley added. "He’s pulling the rug out from the very people that are trying to help him accomplish his goal."

Eric Swalwell announces 2020 presidential bid

Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) joined the crowded Democratic presidential primary field on Monday, becoming the 18th entrant to the race.

"I'm running for president of the United States," he said in an appearance on CBS's "The Late Show With Stephen Colbert." "It's official. Boy, did it feel good to say that."

At 38 years old, Swalwell is among the youngest candidates in the 2020 field (joining fellow tricenarians Pete Buttigieg and Tulsi Gabbard); he is also the third incumbent congressman (joining Hawaii's Gabbard and Ohio's Tim Ryan) and second Californian (joining Sen. Kamala Harris).

He is currently serving in his fourth term representing the East Bay region of California in the House; in the Trump era, he has gained notoriety as an outspoken critic of the president, taking advantage of his perch as a member of the high-profile Intelligence and Judiciary Committees.

"I see a country in quicksand, unable to solve problems and threats from abroad, unable to make life better for people here at home," he said in an announcement video released on Monday. "Nothing gets done."

He will launch his 2020 effort today with a town hall in Sunrise, Florida focused on an issue that he says will be front-and-center in his campaign: gun control. The event will take place just a few miles from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, the site of a mass shooting that claimed the lives of 17 people last year.

More 2020 news...

  • "Biden support stays solid in early states" (Politico)
  • "Elizabeth Warren bets that slew of policy ideas will win over Trump-weary voters" (The Washington Post)
  • Happening today: New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand will participate in a CNN town hall in Washington, D.C. at 10 p.m., the first of five town halls with 2020 presidential candidates that the network is hosting this week.

The Rundown

--- Iran: "The United States on Monday designated Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps a foreign terrorist organization, an unprecedented declaration against a foreign government that may prompt retaliation and make it harder for American diplomats and military officers to work with allies in the region." (The Associated Press)

--- Cuba: "The Trump administration scuttled a landmark deal enabling Cuban baseball players to play on Major League Baseball teams and declared it illegal, the latest move to roll back the warming of relations between the United States and Cuba that began in the Obama administration." (NBC News)

--- Trump/Nadler backstory: "'I’ve been battling Nadler for years': Feud between Trump, Democrat rooted in decades-old New York real estate project" (The 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

--- At 12:05 p.m., President Trump participates in a bilateral meeting with President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi of Egypt. At 12:35 p.m., the two presidents participate in an expanded working lunch.

According to The White House, Trump and Al Sisi will discuss "strengthening the strategic partnership between the United States and Egypt and building on our robust military, economic, and counterterrorism cooperation," as well as "developments and shared priorities in the region, including enhancing regional economic integration and addressing ongoing conflicts, and Egypt’s longstanding role as a lynchpin of regional stability."

This will be their fifth meeting since Trump took office.

--- Vice President Mike Pence will join Trump for his working lunch with President Al Sisi.

Congress schedule

--- The Senate convenes at 10 a.m. today. The chamber will hold a cloture vote at 11 a.m. on the nomination of Daniel Desmond Domenico to be a U.S. District Judge for the District of Colorado.

--- The House convenes at 10 a.m. today. The chamber will open debate on H.R. 1644, the Save the Internet Act of 2019, which would restore net neutrality regulations. The House will also vote on H.R. 1759, the BRIDGE for Workers Act, and H.R. 1957, the Taxpayer First Act of 2019.

--- Also today: Four Cabinet-level officials will testify on Capitol Hill about the budget requests for their agencies: Attorney General William Barr (House Appropriations Committee, 9:30 a.m.); Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (House Appropriations Committee; 10 a.m.); Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler (House Energy and Commerce Committee, 10 a.m.); and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (Senate Appropriations Committee, 2:30 p.m.).

The appearance by Barr will be his first before a congressional committee since special counsel Robert Mueller completed his investigation, and the AG is expected to be grilled by House Democrats on his summary of the Mueller report and the timeline for the full report's release.

Supreme Court schedule

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

*All times Eastern