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Wake Up To Politics - December 5, 2019

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Thursday, December 5, 2019. 60 days until the 2020 Iowa caucuses. 354 days until Election Day 2020. Have any comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at gabe@wakeuptopolitics.com!

Impeachment: The latest

The House Judiciary Committee held its first hearing of the Trump impeachment probe on Wednesday. Here's what happened, via the New York Times:

"The House of Representatives on Wednesday opened a critical new phase of the impeachment proceedings against President Trump, featuring legal scholars vigorously debating whether his conduct and the available evidence rose to the constitutional threshold necessary for his removal from office."

"In a daylong hearing convened by the Judiciary Committee, three constitutional scholars invited by Democrats testified that evidence of Mr. Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine for political gain clearly met the definition of an impeachable abuse of power. They said his defiance of Congress’s investigative requests was further grounds for charging him."

"A fourth scholar invited by Republicans disagreed, warning that Democrats were barreling forward with a shoddy case for the president’s removal based on inadequate evidence, and risked damaging the integrity of a sacred process enshrined in the Constitution."

--- Key quotes: The three Democratic witnesses all agreed that President Trump's actions had met the standard of impeachment laid out by the Constitution. "President Trump has committed impeachable high crimes and misdemeanors by corruptly abusing the office of the presidency," Harvard law professor Noah Feldman testified. "Specifically, President Trump has abused his office by corruptly soliciting President Volodymyr Zelensky to announce investigations of his political rivals in order to gain personal advantage, including in the 2020 presidential election."

Meanwhile, Republican witness Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University, called the case against Trump "slipshod." He added: "If the House proceeds solely on the Ukrainian allegations, this impeachment would stand out among modern impeachments as the shortest proceeding, with the thinnest evidentiary record, and the narrowest grounds ever used to impeach a president."

--- Controversial moment: Stanford law professor Pamela Karlan evoked criticism from Republican members of the committee when she mentioned President Trump's teenage son in a joke during her testimony. "The Constitution says there can be no titles of nobility," Karlan said. "While the president can name his son Barron, he can’t make him a baron."

First Lady Melania Trump issued a rejoinder on Twitter: "A minor child deserves privacy and should be kept out of politics. Pamela Karlan, you should be ashamed of your very angry and obviously biased public pandering, and using a child to do it."

--- One question Wednesday's hearing raised: Will the Mueller report be part of eventual articles of impeachment against President Trump? House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler's opening statement seemed to signal as much: he alleged that between the actions in the Russia and Ukraine probes, President Trump had engaged in a "pattern of conduct" welcoming foreign election interference and obstructing investigations.

According to Politico, a group of House Democratic moderates have warned their caucus that any impeachment case "should steer clear of Robert Mueller" and focus on the Ukraine scandal instead, opening a fierce internal debate within the party.

Happening today: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is scheduled to deliver a statement "on the status of the House of Representatives' impeachment inquiry" at 9 a.m. today. Pelosi also has a press conference scheduled at 10:45 a.m., plus she is slated to participate in a CNN town hall that will air live at 9 p.m. tonight.

In addition, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) holds a press conference at 11:30 a.m.

Both parties gird for the next steps: "The White House signaled Wednesday that it will aggressively defend President Trump in a near-certain Senate impeachment trial in the coming weeks, as legal experts called by House Democrats testified in a contentious hearing that Trump’s Ukraine dealings constitute an impeachable offense," according to the Washington Post.

"Eric Ueland, the White House director of legislative affairs, told reporters that Trump 'wants his case made fully in the Senate,' previewing a strategy that would include live witnesses on the floor, rather than videotaped depositions that were entered into evidence during President Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial in 1999."

Pelosi also prepared her Democratic caucus for the next stage of the inquiry on Thursday, asking in a closed-door meeting: "Are you ready?" The answer, according to the Associated Press, "was a resounding yes."

Trump cancels NATO press conference after video emerges of "two-faced" Trudeau


"President Donald Trump on Wednesday abruptly canceled a press conference that was scheduled to cap a contentious trip to the U.K. for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s 70th anniversary meeting."

. . . "Hours before the news conference was set to start, video emerged of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau caught on a hot mic mocking Trump."

"Trump offered a blunt retort when asked Wednesday about Trudeau’s comments."

"'He’s two-faced,' Trump said, before adding, 'I find him to be a very nice guy but the truth is I called him out on the fact that he’s not paying 2% and I guess he’s not very happy about it.' Trump has long griped about NATO members paying less than their 'fair share' toward the alliance, and brought up the issue repeatedly over the two-day anniversary meeting this week."

. . . "Trudeau, speaking with French President Emmanuel Macron, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte [in the hot mic video] said that Trump 'was late because he takes a 40-minute press conference off the top.'"

"'You just watched his team’s jaws drop to the floor,' Trudeau said at another point in the video, raising his eyebrows and motioning with his hand for effect."

--- Trump's take on the trip: "Tremendous things achieved for U.S. on my NATO trip," the president tweeted this morning. "Proudly for our Country, no President has ever achieved so much in so little time. Without a U.S. increase, other countries have already increased by $130 Billion-with $400 Billion soon. Such a thing has never been done before!"

The Rundown

New work requirements for food stamps: "The Trump administration Wednesday formalized work requirements for recipients of food stamps, a move that will cause [an estimated 700,000 people] to lose access to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP."

. . . "The USDA rule change affects people between the ages of 18 and 49 who are childless and not disabled. Under current rules, this group is required to work at least 20 hours a week for more than three months over a 36-month period to qualify for food stamps, but states have been able to create waivers for areas that face high unemployment." (NBC News)

Trump administration considering increase of troops in Mideast: "The Trump administration is considering a significant expansion of the U.S. military footprint in the Middle East to counter Iran, including dozens more ships, other military hardware and as many as 14,000 additional troops, U.S. officials said."

"The deployment could double the number of U.S. military personnel who have been sent to the region since the start of a troop buildup in May. President Trump is expected to make a decision on the new deployments as soon as this month, those officials said." (Wall Street Journal)

Denny Heck retires: "Rep. Denny Heck (D-Wash.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee who participated in last month's impeachment hearings, said Wednesday he won't seek reelection next year."

"Heck, 67, was first elected in 2012 to represent a district southwest of Seattle. He said in a Medium post he had time over the Thanksgiving recess for 'rest and reflection,' which led to his retirement decision." (Politico)

--- More from Heck's post: "In the spirit of complete openness, part of me is also discouraged. The countless hours I have spent in the investigation of Russian election interference and the impeachment inquiry have rendered my soul weary."

. . . "The truth is that civic discourse began degrading before [President Trump]. At times, it is as though there are no rules or boundaries. Success seems to be measured by how many Twitter followers one has which are largely gained by saying increasingly outrageous things, the more personal the better. There are simply too many hyperbolic adjectives and too few nouns. Civility is out. Compromise is out. All or nothing is in."

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Today at the White House

--- At 1 p.m., President Trump participates in a luncheon with the Permanent Representatives of the United Nations Security Council in the Cabinet Room. At 5 p.m., he delivers remarks at the National Chrismas Tree Lighting Ceremony at The Ellipse, a park near the White House grounds. At 5:45 p.m., he delivers remarks at a Christmas reception at the White House.

Today in Congress

--- The Senate convenes at 10 a.m. today. At 12 p.m., the chamber votes to confirm two judicial nominees: Richard Ernest Myers II (to be a U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of North Carolina) and Sherri A. Lydon (to be a U.S. District Judge for the District of South Carolina). At 1:45 p.m., the chamber votes to confirm Robert M. Duncan to be a Governor of the U.S. Postal Service.

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

  1. H.Res. 326 – Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives regarding United States efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through a negotiated two-state solution
  2. H.R. 4 – Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2019
  3. H.R. 2534 – Insider Trading Prohibition Act

Today at the Supreme Court

--- The Supreme Court has no oral arguments or conferences scheduled today.

Today on the trail

--- Former Vice President Joe Biden (D) continues his "No Malarkey" bus tour through Iowa, attending a community event in New Hampton and a potluck in Waterloo.

--- Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) begins his "Lead with Love" tour through Iowa, delivering remarks on "changes in the Democratic field and his path forward to bearing Donald Trump" in Des Moines and holding a "Conversation with Cory" event in Council Bluffs.

--- South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D-IN) campaigns in New Hampshire, holding town halls in Henniker, Milford, and Exeter.

--- Former HUD Secretary Julián Castro (D) visits California, delivering a foreign policy speech at Stanford University and speaking at a fundraiser in San Francisco.

--- Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) campaigns in New Hampshire, visiting the Portsmouth Rotary Club in Greenland and holding a town hall in Hampton.

--- Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) holds a roundtable on the "future of work" and a grassroots event in Des Moines, Iowa.

--- Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) participates in the Organic Farmers Association and Iowa Organic Association 2019 Presidential Forum in Story City, Iowa.

--- Former Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL) visits small businesses in Manchester, Derry, and Tilton, New Hampshire.

--- Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) speaks at the Democratic National Committee's "IWillVote" fundraising gala in Boston, Massachusetts.  

--- Entrepreneur Andrew Yang (D) holds a rally in Chicago, Illinois.

*All times Eastern