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Wake Up To Politics - August 19, 2019

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Monday, August 19, 2019. 168 days until the 2020 Iowa caucuses. 442 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at gabe@wakeuptopolitics.com.

Welcome back to Wake Up To Politics! I'm so excited to be returning to you with the latest political news each weekday morning. If you enjoy WUTP, make sure to follow on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, and to tell your friends, family, and colleagues to subscribe at wakeuptopolitics.com! And if you'd like to support me and my work, making a one-time or recurring donation is always much appreciated.

Special Report: Gillibrand emphasizes abortion agenda at St. Louis town hall

ST. LOUIS, Mo. — Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) traveled here on Sunday in an attempt to re-center her floundering presidential campaign around one of her signature issues: reproductive rights. Gillibrand said she was traveling to Missouri to be present on the "frontlines" of the abortion battle; the state passed an 8-week abortion ban in May, while its lone abortion clinic is currently fighting in the courts to renew its license.

In a town hall moderated by St. Louis Treasurer Tishaura Jones, Gillibrand spoke about her reproductive rights agenda, pledging to "codify Roe v. Wade" into "federal law," repeal the Hyde Amendment (which bars most federal spending on abortion), and only appoint Supreme Court justices who would uphold Roe, which legalized abortion in the United States in 1973. "We need a next president who is unabashedly pro-choice," Gillibrand said. "Someone who is going to see women’s reproductive freedom as the basic civil rights and human rights that they are. They should be our decisions to be made, no matter what."

Appealing to the mostly female audience, much of whom were sporting pink or purple shirts from Planned Parenthood or the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL), Gillibrand declared: "To take on these issues, we don’t just need women to have a seat at the table, we need a woman at the head of the table." The assembled crowd — which numbered more than 330 attendees, according to a campaign spokesperson — cheered loudly at the line, but is Gillibrand the woman they wanted in that spot at the table?

In interviews with several attendees, Wake Up To Politics found many voters who were open to hearing from Gillibrand and appreciative of her visit, but none who were firmly committed to supporting the New York senator. In fact, for many, she wasn't even under consideration.

"I support Senator Gillibrand, and if she's the nominee, I would 100 percent vote for her, but I'm here for the cause, more so than the candidate," one attendee in a "Nasty Woman" shirt said, representing the mood of many in the audience. "I'm a big fan" of Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, she added.

"I wouldn't say [Gillibrand is] one of my top candidates, but I'm open at this point to listening to anyone that I can," said Zach Vincent, a Washington University student and Iowa native who will be participating in the state's first-in-the-nation caucuses in February. He said his top tier of candidates currently included Warren, California Sen. Kamala Harris, and former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke.

St. Louis engineer Jennifer Root, a former New York constituent of Gillibrand, applauded the senator for "being strong on women's issues," but said she was looking at supporting Warren or Harris as well.

"She's in my top 20," St. Louis University student Damon Alexander joked, saying he liked Warren and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

The elected officials in the audience also seemed lukewarm on supporting Gillibrand. Jones, the event's moderator, told Wake Up To Politics afterward that the New Yorker "was awesome" and is "one of the most dynamic presidential candidates in the field right now," but said only that she was in the top 10 candidates Jones is considering throwing her support to. Former state Rep. Stacey Newman, who also helped facilitate the town hall, explained that Warren and Harris — not Gillibrand — are in her top tier, "mostly because they're in the top tier [nationwide], because I'm realistic." St. Louis Alderwoman Megan Green said she thought Gillibrand "did really well," but quickly added that she has already endorsed Warren.

In her closing remarks, Gillibrand made a blunt final plea for attendees to donate to her campaign: "I want to be on the next presidential debate stage but I don't have enough supporters," she said, adding that she still needed "several thousand" more donors before reaching the 130,000 needed to qualify for the next debate.
"I am very confident that I will reach the debate stage," Gillibrand told WUTP in a gaggle after the town hall. "We need a voice on the Democratic presidential debate stage who puts women's rights on the fore, who actually talks about why access to abortion is such a basic human and civil right. You need a champion, and I am that champion."

The New York senator added that she is "very close" to qualifying. In addition to notching 130,000 donors, candidates must also receive 2% support in four polls to join the debate. Gillibrand has done so in just one poll so far.

Trump, aides dismiss economic warning signs

Stocks plunged last week after the yield on the 10-year Treasury note briefly dipped below the yield on the two-year note, a rare economic phenomenon known as the "inverted yield curve," which can often be an indicator of a forthcoming recession. But top Trump administration officials blanketed all five Sunday shows this weekend to make assurances that the economy remained strong. "I don't see a recession at all," National Economic Council director Larry Kudlow, who made similar declarations ahead of the 2007-8 financial crisis, said on "Fox News Sunday."

In comments to reporters Sunday as he returned to Washington after a weekend at his Bedminster golf club, President Trump also dismissed the potential economic warning signs, giving credit to his 2017 tax reform package: "I don't think we're having a recession," he said. "We're doing tremendously well. Our consumers are rich. I gave a tremendous tax cut and they're loaded up with money."

More: "In Economic Warning Signals, Trump Sees Signs of a Conspiracy" (New York Times)

The Rundown

Inside Trumpworld: Profiles of White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller, the architect of President Trump's hardline immigration agenda, were on the front pages of the New York Times and Washington Post on Saturday. They both make for fascinating reads... Another great read: the New Yorker profile of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that was published this morning...

President Trump continued to attack his former communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, on Twitter this morning, calling him a "highly unstable 'nut job'" who "made a fool of himself" and "was a mental wreck" during his 11-day White House tenure. Scaramucci recently made a public break with Trump, calling the president "crazy" while criticizing his "full-blown racism" and announcing that he would not support his former boss's 2020 re-election campaign. Scaramucci told CNN this morning that he is "in the process of putting together a team" of other former Trump officials to call for Trump's removal from the GOP ticket.

Gun control: After flirting with giving his support to a gun control measure when Congress returns to session in September, President Trump seemed to back away in remarks to reporters on Sunday, saying: "We already have a lot of background checks." Trump continued to express openness to ideas coming from Capitol Hill; according to Axios, he has directed his aides to begin talks with lawmakers, including Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Pat Toomey (R-PA), authors of a bipartisan bill that would expand background checks to nearly all commercial firearm sales, including online sales and gun show purchases.

2020 Central: Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-MA) is considering a primary challenge against Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), the New York Times reported on Saturday. "While Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Markey are both committed progressives, the race would amount to a generational showdown between a scion of the state’s most famous family and a more than four-decade-long fixture of Massachusetts politics," the Times wrote. Kennedy, 38, is the grandson of the late Bobby Kennedy; Markey, 73, has served in Congress since 1976 but has continued to burnish his credentials on the left, co-authoring the Green New Deal with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) earlier this year.

White House schedule

--- At 11:30 a.m., President Trump receives his daily intelligence briefing.

--- Vice President Mike Pence travels to Detroit, Michigan, today. At 12:10 p.m., he delivers remarks at a Detroit Economic Club "about how the administration’s economic agenda is benefiting businesses large and small around the country."

Congress schedule

--- Both chambers of Congress are on August recess.

Supreme Court schedule

--- The Supreme Court is on its summer recess.

2020 schedules

--- Four presidential candidates will speak at the Frank LaMere Native American Presidential Forum in Sioux City, Iowa, today. The event, named for an indigenous rights activist who passed away in June, is calling itself "the nation's first-ever presidential forum focusing entirely on Native American issues." Spiritual author Marianne Williamson will speak at 10 a.m., Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) will speak at 11 a.m., Sen. Elizabeth Klobuchar (D-MN) will speak at 3 p.m., and Gov. Steve Bullock (D-MT) will speak at 4 p.m. (Additional candidates will address the forum tomorrow.)

Ahead of the forum, Warren — whose presidential effort was initially dogged by her past claims of Native American ancestry — introduced a set of policy proposals that would protect tribal land and boost funding for programs serving Native people.

--- Former Vice President Joe Biden attends fundraisers in Washington, D.C., and McLean, Virginia. His wife, former Second Lady Jill Biden, travels to New Hampshire, where she will attend a campaign field office opening in Nashua at 11:15 a.m., a roundtable discussion with the state National Education Association (NEA) chapter at 2 p.m., and a house party with former New Hampshire congressman Dick Swett at 3 p.m.

--- Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA) participates in the New Hampshire Medical Society's "First-in-the-Nation Presidential Primary Rounds" in Concord at 4:30 p.m.

--- Continuing his campaign's focus on white nationalism in the wake of the mass shooting earlier this month in his hometown of El Paso, Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-TX) travels to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, today. At 1:20 p.m., he tours the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum to pay tribute to the victims of the 1995 bombing. At 5 p.m., he holds a rally at the University of Oklahoma in Norman.

--- Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) travels to Iowa today, holding a labor town hall at 11:30 a.m. in Davenport, an event at his campaign office in Davenport at 1 p.m., an ice cream social at 4 p.m. in West Branch, and a softball game between his staff and press corps at 8 p.m. at the "Field of Dreams" movie site in Dyersville.

--- Former Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) speaks at an event hosted by the Dickinson County Democrats in Milford, Iowa, at 7:30 p.m.

--- Billionaire Tom Steyer is taking a break from the campaign trail this week as he reports to jury duty in San Francisco, California.

--- Warren holds a town hall in St. Paul, Minnesota, at 7:15 p.m.

*All times Eastern