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Wake Up To Politics - December 2, 2019

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Monday, December 2, 2019. 63 days until the 2020 Iowa caucuses. 337 days until Election Day 2020. Have any comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at gabe@wakeuptopolitics.com!

Welcome back to Wake Up To Politics. I hope you all had a happy Thanksgiving. I am so thankful that so many of you continue to read this newsletter and trust me to bring you the news each morning.

White House won't participate in Judiciary Committee impeachment hearing

The House Judiciary Committee is set to reclaim the impeachment mantle this week, as the panel plans to hold its first hearing on removing President Donald Trump on Wednesday.

Unlike in the House Intelligence Committee (where hearings in the Trump impeachment probe had been held up until now), the White House was given an opportunity to be represented at the Wednesday hearing. However, in a five-page letter to Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) on Sunday, White House Counsel Pat Cipollone wrote that neither President Trump nor his lawyers would accept the offer to appear at the hearing.

"We cannot fairly be expected to participate in a hearing while the witnesses are yet to be named and while it remains unclear whether the Judiciary Committee will afford the president a fair process through additional hearings," Cipollone wrote. He left open the possibility that the White House would participate in future Judiciary Committee hearings.

According to the Washington Post, the Wednesday hearing is expected to feature four constitutional scholars — "three chosen by Democrats, one by Republicans" — who will discuss the standards for impeachment.

Meanwhile, the Intelligence Committee will complete its participation in the impeachment process this week. The committee's members will begin reviewing a report today on the panel's investigation into President Trump's efforts to press Ukraine to investigate his Democratic rivals, ahead of a Tuesday vote on the findings.

The report will likely be approved on a party-line vote, then sent to the Judiciary Committee. Impeachment inquiries have historically been handled by the Judiciary panel, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) tapped her home-state ally, Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA), to lead the fact-finding phase of the Trump probe instead of Nadler.

But it is the Judiciary Committee that will see most of the action now. The Judiciary panel is expected to incorporate the Intelligence Committee report into its articles of impeachment, which are expected to be drafted and voted on by the committee in the coming weeks. Democrats hope to hold a full House vote on the impeachment articles before leaving for Christmas recess.

Some impeachment headlines you may have missed over the long weekend...

  • "Trump Knew of Whistle-Blower Complaint When He Released Aid to Ukraine" (New York Times)
  • "Two OMB staffers quit after expressing frustration about frozen Ukraine aid, top official says" (NBC News)
  • "Witness testimony and records raise questions about account of Trump’s 'no quid pro quo' call" (Washington Post)
  • "Trump Denies Sending Rudy Giuliani to Ukraine for Biden Probe" (Bloomberg)
  • "Giuliani Weighed Doing Business With Ukrainian Government" (Wall Street Journal)

2020 Central: State of the race

With two months until the Iowa caucuses, here's where the Democratic presidential race stands:

  1. The field has shrunk to 16 candidates, with the exits of former Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) on Sunday and Gov. Steve Bullock (D-MT) this morning. Neither were large forces in the race; Bullock was the last current or former governor vying for either party's presidential nomination.
  2. Former Vice President Joe Biden continues to sit atop the field in national polling, despite months of speculation that his advantage would eventually slip away. He is largely fueled by his ties to former President Barack Obama and his support among minority voters.
  3. After steadily rising throughout September and October, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has seen her momentum evaporate amid questions over her plan to implement a "Medicare for All" health care system.
  4. Nationally, Warren has been supplanted by her main progressive rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who is now in second place behind Biden according to the RealClearPolitics polling average. Sanders has reliably received about 15% of the primary electorate for most of the campaign; he saw little political blowback after suffering a heart attack in early October.
  5. In Iowa, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D-IN) is the new flavor of the month. The state's most-respected pollster found him leading in the caucuses last month, while recent surveys from CNN and Quinnipiac found the mayor climbing to new heights nationally. However, he still faces a steep challenge in courting black voters.
  6. The rest of the field lingers in the low single digits in most state and national polls. After early promise, the campaign of Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) has now mostly unraveled and is reportedly considering a December exit. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) was boosted by recent debate performances but has yet to jump into the top tier.
  7. No other candidates have qualified for the December debate. The two contenders closest to joining are both party outsiders: entrepreneur Andrew Yang, whose online support continues to pay dividends (he raised $2 million last week), and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), who has clashed with Hillary Clinton and other establishment luminaries.
  8. The newest additions to the primary bench — former Gov. Deval Patrick (D-MA) and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (D-NY) — have had little impact on the race so far, although Bloomberg's enormous war chest continues to spark fear among his rivals.

In the words of Washington Post chief correspondent Dan Balz: "Confusion rather than clarity continues to be the story of their contest for the 2020 nomination," as the dominance of the party's liberal wing earlier in the year has given way to a resurgence for the moderate contenders. "What continues to define the Democratic race is the absence of a candidate who has truly captured the imagination of voters," Balz wrote last week.

Instead of a sole frontrunner, the race arguably has four, each of whom possesses gaping vulnerabilties which have prevented them from establishing a clear primacy over the field.

As Axios executive editor Mike Allen wrote on Sunday (in a piece titled "Democrats' 2020 chaos theory"), the early voting states could realistically provide a split decision for the ages — one victory for each candidate: Iowa for Buttigieg, New Hampshire for Warren, South Carolina for Biden, and Nevada for Sanders.

All four would then sprint to Super Tuesday without any clear leader among them, an uncommon show of indecision in the annals of modern presidential campaign history.

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Today at the White House

--- President and First Lady Trump travel to London today. They will depart the White House at 9:45 a.m. and arrive at their destination at 5:20 p.m.

Trump will be in London through Wednesday to attend the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Leaders Meeting, which has become an annually awkward stop for the president since he called for the alliance's obsolescence in the 2016 campaign.

--- Vice President Pence has no public events scheduled.

Today in Congress

--- The Senate convenes at 3 p.m. today. At 5:30 p.m., the chamber will vote on confirmation of Dan Brouillette to be Secretary of Energy, followed by a procedural vote advancing the nomination of Eric Ross Komitee to be a U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of New York.

Brouilette, who succeeds outgoing Secretary Rick Perry, has served as Deputy Secretary of Energy since August 2017. Komitee is a New York City attorney and former federal prosecutor.

--- The House is on recess today. Speaker Pelosi is in Madrid, Spain, leading a bicameral congressional delegation at the 2019 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP25).

Today at the Supreme Court

--- The justices of the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in two cases today:

  • New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. City of New York ("Whether New York City’s ban on transporting a licensed, locked and unloaded handgun to a home or shooting range outside city limits is consistent with the Second Amendment, the commerce clause and the constitutional right to travel")
  • Georgia v. Public.Resource.Org Inc. ("Whether the government edicts doctrine extends to—and thus renders uncopyrightable—works that lack the force of law, such as the annotations in the Official Code of Georgia Annotated.")

The New York suit is the Supreme Court's highest-profile Second Amendment case in nearly a decade and will serve as a key test on how far the court's newly-secured conservative majority will move on gun control.

Today on the trail

--- Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) holds meet and greets in Muscatine, Clinton, and Bettendorf, Iowa.

--- Former Vice President Joe Biden continues his "No Malarkey" bus tour through Iowa, holding events in Emmetsburg and Algona. He will also attend fundraisers in Chicago, Illinois, tonight.

--- Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) visits Columbia, South Carolina, holding an event on "issues impacting black men" and formally filing for the state's presidential primary.

--- South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D-IN) campaigns in South Carolina, visiting a vineyard in Round O, holding a meet and greet in Allendale, and visiting the Orangeburg Massacre Monument at South Carolina State University in Orangeburg.

--- Former HUD Secretary Julián Castro speaks to a political science class at East Los Angeles College in Monterey Park, California.

--- Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) attends a house party in Amherst, New Hampshire.

--- Former Gov. Deval Patrick (D-MA) attends a fundraiser in Boston, Massachusetts, according to Politico.

--- Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) holds a town hall in Iowa City, Iowa.

--- Entrepreneur Andrew Yang holds town halls in Keene and Hanover, New Hampshire.

*All times Eastern