5 min read

Wake Up To Politics - February 19, 2019

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Tuesday, February 19, 2019. 349 days until the 2020 Iowa caucuses. 623 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at gabe@wakeuptopolitics.com.

Sanders launches 2020 presidential bid

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), the runner-up in the 2016 Democratic presidential primaries, announced this morning that he will wage a second bid for the White House.

Sanders unveiled his plans in an email to supporters. "Together, you and I and our 2016 campaign began the political revolution," he wrote. "Now, it is time to complete that revolution and implement the vision that we fought for."

A self-described "democratic socialist," Sanders is known for his support for policy stances such as "Medicare For All," a $15 minimum wage, and free college tuition — ideas that set him apart and allowed him to catch fire against Hillary Clinton in 2016, but are now supported by many Democratic presidential candidates. In most early polls of the 2020 nomination fight, Sanders' name ID and base of support from the last election propel him to second place, behind former Vice President Joe Biden, who has yet to join the race.

However, whether Sanders can keep that support in a field that is parroting many of his policy views — and could include some of his most prominent endorsers, such as Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), as opposed to a sole opponent like he faced in 2016 — remains to be seen.

"Our campaign is not only about defeating Donald Trump, the most dangerous president in modern American history. It is not only about winning the Democratic nomination and the general election," he wrote in the email to supporters. "Our campaign is about transforming our country and creating a government based on the principles of economic, social, racial, and environmental justice." Sanders also released a video on Twitter announcing his bid.

Sanders, 77, is the longest-serving Independent in congressional history; if he clinches the Democratic presidential nomination and goes on to face President Donald Trump, he would be the oldest major-party presidential nominee in history.

Asked in a CBS News interview this morning what would make his second White House bid different from the first, the Vermont Independent didn't miss a beat before responding: "We're gonna win."

Other 2020 news...

  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) participated in a CNN town hall Monday night, in which she "placed herself firmly in the center lane of the Democratic primary on Monday, calling popular progressive policy platforms 'aspirational,'  and declining to fully commit to them," Politico reports. Unlike some of her presidential rivals, Klobuchar declined to endorse the Green New Deal or Medicare for All, while flatly announcing her opposition to free four-year college tuition.
  • According to the Huffington Post, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) "will unveil a major new initiative [today] designed to make sure every family can afford high-quality child care." Warren's plan would seek to "make access to child care universal," according to the report, and ensure that "no family would have to spend more than 7 percent of its household income on child care, no matter the number of kids." The initiative, which Warren advisers say would require $700 billion in new federal spending over 10 years, would be paid for using revenue from the Massachusetts Democrat's proposed "wealth tax."
  • "Trump the pundit handicaps 2020 Democratic contenders" (Associated Press)
  • "Obama Quietly Gives Advice to 2020 Democrats, but No Endorsement" (New York Times)

16 states file lawsuit against Trump emergency declaration

A coalition of 16 states filed a lawsuit Monday challenging President Donald Trump's plan to fund his proposed border wall by invoking emergency powers.

Trump announced on Friday that he was taking executive action, including signing a national emergency declaration, to access $8 billion in funding for the wall, after Congress only appropriated $1.3 billion for barriers at the border. The president predicted at the time that the declaration would trigger a legal battle: "We will have a national emergency, and we will then be sued...and we will possibly get a bad ruling and then we will get another bad ruling, and then we will end up in the Supreme Court, and hopefully we will get a fair shake and win in the Supreme Court," he said.

The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for Northern California, calls the president's plan "an unconstitutional and unlawful scheme" and a "flagrant disregard of fundamental separation of powers principles." California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who is leading the suit, also told the New York Times that President Trump himself had undercut the argument that an emergency declaration was imperative. "Probably the best evidence is the president's own words," he said, a reference to Trump's Friday announcement, when he admitted: "I didn't need to do this, but I'd rather do it much faster."

Although recent presidents have invoked the National Emergencies Act dozens of times since its passage in 1976, Trump's national emergency declaration was only the second time that a president has used that law to authorize military action. According to the Times, the law has also "never before has one been used to make an end-run around Congress after it rejected funding for a particular policy."

In addition to California, the states joining the lawsuit are: Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, and Virginia. All 16 have Democratic attorneys general; only one (Maryland) does not have a Democratic governor.

--- According to an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll released this morning, 61% of Americans disapprove of President Trump's decision to declare a national emergency, while 58% said they do not believe there is currently an emergency at the southern border.

The Administration

--- Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein plans to leave the Justice Department in mid-March, multiple news outlets reported Monday. Rosenstein's controversial tenure at DOJ has been marked by his appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller in May 2017; Rosenstein oversaw the Mueller investigation until the ouster of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and appointment of Matt Whitaker as Acting Attorney General late last year. Rosenstein's departure timeline comes shortly after Sessions' permanent replacement, Attorney General William Barr, was confirmed by the Senate. According to the Washington Post, Deputy Transportation Secretary Jeffrey Rosen is expected to be nominated as the No. 2 at the Justice Department.

--- State Department spokesperson and former Fox News host Heather Nauert announced on Saturday that she was withdrawing her name from consideration to be Ambassador to the United Nations, citing how "grueling" the process has been for her family. (She reportedly stepped aside after vetting revealed that a nanny her family had employed in the past did not have the proper work visa.) Nauert's nomination had been announced by President Trump, but not formally submitted to the Senate. Per Bloomberg, Trump's new shortlist for the post includes former deputy national security security adviser Dina Powell; the current ambassadors to Canada and Germany, Kelly Craft and Richard Grenell; and 2018 Michigan Senate candidate John James.

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White House schedule

POTUS: At 11:30 a.m., President Trump meets with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. At 12:15 p.m., he meets with Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen. At 1 p.m., he has lunch with Vice President Mike Pence.

At 2 p.m., the president participates in a signing ceremony for Space Policy Directive 4. According to Politico, the directive will establish the U.S. Space Force as a new military branch under the jurisdiction of the Air Force, laying the groundwork for legislation that would make it a fully independent department.

VP: In addition to joining the president for lunch and for the signing ceremony, at 5 p.m, the vice president will participate in a swearing-in ceremony for Arthur Culvahouse, who was confirmed as U.S. Ambassador to Australia last month. Culvahouse, who served as White House Counsel under President Ronald Reagan, led the vice presidential vetting process for the Trump campaign in 2016.

Congress schedule

Neither house of Congress is in session today.

Supreme Court schedule

The Supreme Court hears oral arguments in Return Mail Inc. v. U.S. Postal Service today. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is expected to return to the bench today for the first time since she underwent surgery in December.

*All times Eastern