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Wake Up To Politics - December 10, 2019

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Tuesday, December 10, 2019. 55 days until the 2020 Iowa caucuses. 329 days until Election Day 2020. Have any comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at gabe@wakeuptopolitics.com!

Democrats expected to unveil two articles of impeachment against Trump

The House committee chairs leading the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump are scheduled to make a major announcement on the "next steps" of the investigation at 9 a.m. today. According to multiple news sources, the Democrats are expected to unveil two articles of impeachment against the president: one charging him with abuse of power and the other with obstruction of Congress.

The announcement will be made by Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY), Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA), Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (D-NY), Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), and Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY).

The Judiciary Committee is slated to vote on the articles on Thursday, setting up a full House vote on impeachment next week. Trump would be the third U.S. president in history to be impeached by the House. The Senate is then to hold a trial in January before voting to either acquit or convict the president.

Democrats previewed their articles of impeachment in a nine-hour Judiciary Committee hearing on Monday. "President Trump's persistent and continuing effort to coerce a foreign country to help him cheat to win an election is a clear and present danger to our free and fair elections and to our national security," Daniel Goldman, a lawyer for Democrats on the Intelligence Committee, testified.  

Although some Democrats have discussed impeaching President Trump almost since he took office, the allegations that the articles are expected to focus on have emerged completely in the past three months: that Trump, along with his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and other lieutenants, leveraged an Oval Office meeting and U.S. military aid in order to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to announce investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden and the 2016 election.

The article on obstruction of Congress will accuse Trump of stonewalling lawmakers' attempts to investigate these claims by refusing to comply with subpoenas for administration witnesses or documents.

Also testifying in Monday's hearing, Republican lawyer Stephen Castor dismissed the impeachment inquiry as "baloney" and accused Democrats of lacking evidence for their case. "The record in the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry does not show that President Trump abused the power of his office or obstructed Congress," he said.

"To impeach a President who has proven through results, including producing perhaps the strongest economy in our country's history, to have one of the most successful presidents ever, and most importantly, who has done NOTHING wrong, is sheer Political Madness!" President Trump declared in a tweet this morning.

--- Also today: In addition to unveiling articles of impeachment against him, House Democrats are also expected to hand President Trump a major legislative achievement today. The Democrats are likely to announce a deal with the White House on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USCMA), a revised version of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) championed by the Trump administration.

IG report finds flaws in FBI's Russia probe but no anti-Trump bias

From the New York Times: "F.B.I. officials had sufficient reason to open the investigation into links between Russia and Trump campaign aides in 2016 and acted without political bias, a long-awaited report said on Monday, but it concluded that the inquiry was a rushed and dysfunctional process marked by serious errors in documents related to a wiretap."

"The exhaustive report by the Justice Department’s independent inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, faced an immediate challenge. Attorney General William P. Barr sought to undermine the key finding that investigators had an adequate basis to open the inquiry, known as Crossfire Hurricane."

. . . "Yet Mr. Horowitz stressed that the standard for opening an F.B.I. investigation was low — echoing the sort of criticism that civil libertarians have made for years. He also exonerated former F.B.I. leaders, broadly rejecting Mr. Trump’s accusations that they engaged in a politicized conspiracy to sabotage him."

"'We did not find documentary or testimonial evidence that political bias or improper motivation influenced' officials' decision to open the investigation, the report said."

"At the same time, Mr. Horowitz’s report was scathing about other aspects of the sprawling inquiry, documenting serious and systematic problems with the F.B.I.’s handling of applications to win court orders to wiretap Carter Page, a former Trump campaign adviser. Mr. Horowitz said investigators appeared to overstate the strength of their applications, and he separately referred one low-ranking F.B.I. lawyer for possible prosecution for altering a related document."

"By puncturing conspiracy theories promoted by Mr. Trump and his allies, yet sharply criticizing law enforcement actions that have not been the subject of public debate, Mr. Horowitz’s mixed findings offered a basis for both critics and allies of Mr. Trump to claim vindication. The report by an independent official presented a definitive accounting of the F.B.I.’s actions in the early stages of the Russia investigation."

--- The latest: Attorney General Barr's statement on Monday essentially rejected the IG's finding that the FBI had an "authorized purpose" in opening the Russia probe, saying that the bureau launched the investigation "on the thinnest of suspicions that, in my view, were insufficient to justify the steps taken."

FBI Director Christopher Wray, meanwhile, emphasized in an ABC News interview that "the inspector general found that, in this particular instance, the investigation was opened with appropriate predication and authorization."

President Trump responded by attacking Wray in a Twitter missive this morning. "I don't know what report current Director of the FBI Christopher Wray was reading, but it sure wasn't the one given to me," the president said. "With that kind of attitude, he will never be able to fix the FBI, which is badly broken despite having some of the greatest men & women working there!"

Wray was Trump's own appointee to lead the bureau, after firing then-Director James Comey in May 2017.

2020 Central

The latest in the Warren vs. Buttigieg transparency fight, via Politico: "McKinsey and Co. will allow Pete Buttigieg to disclose the clients he served at the management consulting firm a decade ago, the latest development in a weeklong battle over transparency as Buttigieg and Elizabeth Warren scrap for position in the Democratic presidential primary."

"Buttigieg has faced weeks of criticism from rival campaigns and Democratic activists over his employment at McKinsey and his closed-door fundraisers with wealthy donors, particularly from Warren, who has banned in-person fundraisers on her campaign as part of an anti-corruption platform. But Buttigieg has fired back by criticizing Warren for not releasing her tax returns during years that covered her corporate legal work."

"The transparency duel — yielding more financial details about Warren’s legal work and, earlier Monday, a pledge from Buttigieg to open his private fundraisers to the press — comes as the two candidates jostle for an overlapping pool of voters and compete at the top of Iowa caucus polling. The competition has led Warren, who’s lost some ground recently in early-state polling, to call out Buttigieg by name for the first time — a break from her prior approach of not directly attacking rivals."

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Today at the White House

--- At 2:30 p.m., President Trump meets with Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov. The last time they met, in May 2017, Trump reportedly revealed highly classified intelligence about an Islamic State plot. Like their 2017 meeting (which was photographed only by Russia's state-owned media outfit), this one today will be closed press.

Trump will then travel to Hershey, Pennsylvania, where he will hold a rally for his re-election campaign at 7 p.m. tonight. Following the rally, Trump will return to the White House, arriving at 10:05 p.m.

--- Vice President Mike Pence travels to Pennsylvania today. At 10:30 a.m., he speaks at a Veterans for Trump event in Rochester. At 6:50 p.m., he speaks at the Trump rally in Hershey. The vice president will then return to Washington, D.C., arriving at 8:50 p.m.

Today in Congress

--- The Senate convenes at 10 a.m. today. The chamber will recess from 12:30 p.m. to 2:15 p.m. for weekly caucus meetings. At 2:15 p.m., the chamber will hold three roll call votes: confirming the nomination of Patrick J. Bumatay to be a U.S. Circuit Judge for the Ninth Circuit, advancing the nomination of Lawrence Vandyke to be a U.S. Circuit Judge for the Ninth Circuit, and passing S. 2740, the Over-the-Counter Monograph Safety, Innovation and Reform Act.

--- The House convenes at 10 a.m. today. The chamber is scheduled to consider three pieces of legislation:

  1. H.R. 729 – Coastal and Great Lakes Communities Enhancement Act
  2. H.R. 5035 – Television Viewer Protection Act of 2019
  3. H.R. 5363 – FUTURE Act, as amended

Today at the Supreme Court

--- The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Maine Community Health Options v. United States and Holguin-Hernandez v. United States today.

Today on the trail

--- Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) campaigns in New Hampshire, attending a roundtable with the Campaign for a Friendly Economy in Manchester and touring Nashua Housing Authority units and the Nashua Soup Kitchen and Shelter in Nashua.

--- Former Vice President Joe Biden (D) visits Nevada, making a local stop in Boulder City and attending a fundraiser in Las Vegas.

--- Former HUD Secretary Julián Castro (D) campaigns in Iowa, attending a meet and greet in Ottumwa and hosting a town hall "on the role of Iowa and New Hampshire in the Democratic primary" in Des Moines. (Castro has been critical of the Democratic primary calendar.)

--- Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) holds a town hall in Concord, New Hampshire.

--- Former Gov. Deval Patrick (D-MA) makes stops in South Carolina, attending a house party hosted by the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition in Columbia, visiting the Governor’s School for Science & Mathematics in Hartsville, and attending a meet and greet in Hartsville.

--- Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) visits Las Vegas, Nevada, participating in a UNITE HERE town hall and a community meeting.

--- Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) holds a town hall in Reno, Nevada.

--- Spiritual author Marianne Willaimson (D) holds events in Des Moines, Iowa.

--- Entrepreneur Andrew Yang kicks off his "A New Way Forward" bus tour through Iowa in Des Moines, making stops in Grinnell to open a new field office and Iowa CIty for an event "discussing Big Pharma and his plan to lower drug prices."

*All times Eastern