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Wake Up To Politics - February 26, 2019

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Tuesday, February 26, 2019. 342 days until the 2020 Iowa caucuses. 616 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at gabe@wakeuptopolitics.com.

Cohen to accuse Trump of criminal conduct in testimony this week

Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's former personal attorney and longtime "fixer," will be on Capitol Hill today for his first of three days of testimony before congressional committees this week. Cohen's three-day show starts today with a closed Senate Intelligence Committee hearing; the main act will be Wednesday's House Oversight Committee hearing, the only one which will be open to the public.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Cohen plans to "publicly accuse the president of criminal conduct while in office" during his testimony, describing Trump's role in the illegal hush-money payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels for the first time. He will "also will make public some of Mr. Trump’s private financial statements and allege that Mr. Trump at times inflated or deflated his net worth for business and personal purposes, including avoiding paying property taxes," as well as "recount racist remarks Mr. Trump allegedly made to him."

Cohen is scheduled to report to prison in May for a three-year sentence after pleading guilty to lying to Congress, tax evasion, and other crimes. He was also charged with making an illegal campaign contribution — the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels in October 2016. According to the New York Times, Cohen will describe the plan to pay Daniels "in granular detail" for lawmakers, alleging that Trump initiated it. Trump was indirectly implicated when prosecutors charged Cohen for crimes relating to the payment, referring to the president as "Individual 1," but the president's former lawyer is expected to describe his role in the scheme publicly for the first time Wednesday.

More on the investigations into President Trump and his inner circle...

  • "The House Judiciary Committee believes it has evidence that President Trump asked Matthew Whitaker, at the time the acting attorney general, whether Manhattan U.S. attorney Geoffrey Berman could regain control of his office’s investigation into Mr. Trump’s former lawyer and his real-estate business," per the Wall Street Journal. The panel is probing whether Whitaker committed perjury when he testified before the committee last month that the White House never "asked for...any promises or commitments concerning the special counsel's investigation or any other investigation."
  • Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who is expected to step down soon, expressed confidence Monday that Attorney General Bill Barr will "make the right decision" on how much of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report is released. Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller and oversaw much of his investigation, also suggested that the public version of the report should not include information about people who haven't been charged with crimes. "If we aren’t prepared to prove our case beyond a reasonable doubt in court, then we have no business making allegations against American citizens," he said.
  • Happening today: The House Oversight Committee will vote to authorize its first subpoenas since Democrats claimed the committee's gavel, seeking documents from the Departments of Homeland Security, Justice, and Health and Human Services concerning the Trump administration's family separation policy.
  • "House Democrats target Trump’s personal finances" (Politico)
  • "Defense counsel: Paul Manafort should face sentence 'substantially below' 10 year maximum" (ABC News)
  • "Trump Organization asks House committee to cease investigations, citing an alleged conflict of interest" (Washington Post)
  • Recommended read: "It’s Mueller’s Investigation. But Right Behind Him Is Andrew Goldstein." (New York Times)

The Rundown

--- Alva Johnson, a staffer on the Trump 2016 campaign, alleges in a new lawsuit that the future president "kissed her without her consent at a small gathering of supporters before a Florida rally," the Washington Post reports. The White House denied the allegation, calling it "absurd on its face."

--- The House will vote today on a Democratic resolution that would overturn President Trump's declaration of a national emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border. The National Emergencies Act of 1976 allows lawmakers to nullify a presidentially-declared emergency with such a resolution, although Congress has never before attempted to do so. The resolution is expected to pass easily in the Democratic-controlled House today, but its future is less clear in the Senate, which is required by the 1976 law to hold a vote on the measure. Sens. Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Susan Collins (R-ME) have already said they will back the resolution; if two more Republican senators join them, it would pass the chamber. President Trump could still veto the resolution even if it passes both chambers of Congress. The votes come as 58 former national security officials and 26 former Republican lawmakers penned letters urging members of Congress to vote against the national emergency.

--- 2020 news: Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) pledged Monday that she would not attend any high-dollar fundraisers during her presidential primary campaign, or spend any time on the phone with wealthy donors... Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) announced that he had raised $10 million from 350,000+ donors in his first week as a candidate.

--- Voters in Chicago head to the polls today in the race to select the city's new mayor, with incumbent Rahm Emanuel declining to run for a third term. No clear frontrunner has emerged in the race, which features 14 candidates, including former Obama White House chief of staff Bill Daley, former Chicago Police Board president Lori Lightfoot, Cook County Board of Commissioners president Toni Preckwinkle, and Illinois Comptroller Susan Mendoza.

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White House schedule

POTUS: President Trump arrives in Hanoi, Vietnam at 9:15 a.m. today, ahead of his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

--- "Domestic Distractions Persist as Trump Heads Abroad for North Korea Talks" (New York Times)

VP: At 12:45 p.m., Vice President Mike Pence participates in the weekly Senate Republican policy lunch.

Congress schedule

Senate: The Senate meets at 10 a.m. today. The chamber is scheduled to resume consideration of the nomination of Eric D. Miller to be a U.S. Circuit Judge for the Ninth Circuit. The Senate advanced Miller's nomination on Monday in a 51-46 cloture vote. The chamber will recess from 12:30 p.m. to 2:15 p.m. for weekly party caucus meetings.

House: The House meets at 10 a.m. today. The chamber is scheduled to vote on H.J.Res.46, the joint resolution of disapproval attempting to block President Trump's declaration of a national emergency at the southern border, as well as S.47, the Natural Resources Management Act, a Senate-passed bill designating 1.3 million acres of new wilderness and permanently reauthorizing the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

Supreme Court schedule

The Supreme Court hears oral arguments in United States v. Haymond and Mont v. United States. There is a possibility of opinions from the justices at 10 a.m.

*All times Eastern