I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Tuesday, January 14, 2020. 20 days until the Iowa caucuses. 294 days until Election Day. Have any comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
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Democratic contenders to clash at Iowa debate
With 20 days to go until the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses, the Democratic debate stage has shrunken to its smallest size yet — six candidates — and may turn more acrimonious than ever.
The top contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination will meet at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, tonight for the final debate before Hawkeye State caucusgoers make their crucial choices. Tonight's debate comes as some of the candidates have begun to fiercely clash with each other for the first time.
The looming conflict on stage will be the growing rift between progressive Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, ideological allies who have refrained from skirmishing all primary season. That is until Warren called out Sanders on Sunday for a volunteer script critical of her circulated by his campaign, and then CNN reported on Monday that Sanders told Warren in a private 2018 meeting that he did not believe a woman could win the presidency.
Sanders forcefully denied the report, accusing "staff who weren't in the room" of "lying about what happened." But Warren confirmed it, issuing a statement that said, "I thought a woman could win; he disagreed." The split — a rare sign of daylight between the two top progressives seeking the Democratic nod — is sure to come up in the debate.
Many of the candidates will likely also be gunning for former Vice President Joe Biden, who has remained strong in national and early state polling despite months of shaky campaigning. He is still the undisputed leader among black voters (a crucial Democratic primary bloc), a status that was underlined on Monday with the withdrawal of New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, who had been among the most promising minority candidates in the once-racially diverse field. (For the first time this primary cycle, the Democratic debate stage will be all-white, as Booker and entrepreneur Andrew Yang failed to qualify.)
Sanders and Biden have been sparring in recent days, with the conflict in Iran giving way to attacks from Sanders over Biden's 2002 vote in favor of the Iraq war. The Vermont independent is also expected to "lay into" the former VP over his record on Social Security tonight, according to Politico. Meanwhile, Biden will likely draw a contrast with Sanders and Warren focused on electability, as signaled by a new Trump-focused ad debuted by his campaign this morning.
Rounding out the stage will be billionaire hedge fund manager Tom Steyer and two candidates — former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar — who are relying on next month's Iowa caucuses to jumpstart their nationally-sputtering, Midwest-based campaigns while they compete with Biden for centrist caucusgoers. Absent but looming over the field will be former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, another billionaire candidate whose campaign team has grown to include 1,000 staffers, who has skipped the early state primaries and opted not to collect donations, blocking him from joining the debates.
Uncertainty reigns in Iowa as the Democratic candidates gather there for a final pre-caucus brawl: while the respected Des Moines Register/CNN poll released on Friday found Sanders just slightly ahead of Biden, Buttigieg, and Warren in the state (a virtual four-way tie), a Monmouth poll released on Monday showed Biden with a six-point lead.
With less than three weeks to go until caucus day, it remains unknown which survey — if either — has an accurate read on Iowa voters' preferences, but both polls show a solid chunk of the state's electorate remains stubbornly undecided. As potential caucusgoers tune in across the state, tonight's debate offers candidates one of their final chances to persuade those enigmatic voters and push for a much-needed boost on caucus night.
--- More exciting news: I will be at Drake University for the debate! I have received press credentials to cover the big event and will be in the Spin Room afterward, pressing the candidates and their surrogates about how the debate went and the state of the race. Stay tuned for my coverage from Iowa! I'll be headed to Des Moines soon after pressing "send"...
--- How to watch: The debate will air on CNN from 9 to 11 p.m. Eastern Time. The moderators will be CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer, CNN political correspondent Abby Phillip, and Des Moines Register chief politics reporter Brianne Pfannenstiel.
Impeachment update: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will huddle with her caucus at 9 a.m. Eastern Time to discuss formally sending the articles of impeachment against President Trump to the Senate after a monthlong delay. The House is expected to vote later this week on a resolution naming the managers who will prosecute the case for impeachment in the Senate trial, which will likely begin the following day.
--- According to CBS News, White House officials "increasingly believe that at least four Republicans" (Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine, Mitt Romney of Utah and possibly Cory Gardner of Colorado) will vote to call witnesses once the Senate trial is underway. Additionally, per the Washington Post, it has become clear that the Senate will hold a full trial after all, as top chamber Republicans "rejected President Trump’s call for outright dismissal of the impeachment charges against him."
Russians hack Ukrainian company at center of impeachment probe: "With President Trump facing an impeachment trial over his efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son Hunter Biden, Russian military hackers have been boring into the Ukrainian gas company at the center of the affair, according to security experts."
"The hacking attempts against Burisma, the Ukrainian gas company on whose board Hunter Biden served, began in early November, as talk of the Bidens, Ukraine and impeachment was dominating the news in the United States."
"It is not yet clear what the hackers found, or precisely what they were searching for. But the experts say the timing and scale of the attacks suggest that the Russians could be searching for potentially embarrassing material on the Bidens — the same kind of information that Mr. Trump wanted from Ukraine when he pressed for an investigation of the Bidens and Burisma, setting off a chain of events that led to his impeachment." (New York Times)
Trump to divert additional funds to border wall: "President Trump is preparing to divert an additional $7.2 billion in Pentagon funding for border wall construction this year, five times what Congress authorized him to spend on the project in the 2020 budget, according to internal planning figures obtained by The Washington Post."
"The Pentagon funds would be extracted, for the second year in a row, from military construction projects and counternarcotics funding. According to the plans, the funding would give the government enough money to complete about 885 miles of new fencing by spring 2022, far more than the 509 miles the administration has slated for the U.S. border with Mexico." (Washington Post)
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Today at the White House
--- President Donald Trump will receive his daily intelligence briefing in the Oval Office and then travel to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to speak at a rally for his re-election campaign at 8 p.m. Eastern Time.
Today in Congress
--- The Senate will vote on the confirmation of Peter Gaynor to be Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and then hold weekly caucus meetings.
--- The House will consider H.R. 1230, the Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act, and H.J.Res. 76, a resolution striking down a Department of Education rule relating to "Borrower Defense Institutional Accountability."
Today at the Supreme Court
--- The Supreme Court justices will hear oral arguments in Kelly v. United States (a case tied to the 2013 "Bridgegate" scandal) and Romag Fasteners, Inc. v. Fossil, Inc. (a trademark-infringement case).
Today on the trail
--- The top six candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination (former Vice President Joe Biden, former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, former hedge fund manager Tom Steyer, and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren) will participate in the CNN/Des Moines Register debate at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, at 9 p.m. Eastern Time.
--- Former Maryland Rep. John Delaney will continue his "Send A Message Tour" through Iowa, making stops in Humeston, Liberty, and Osceola.
--- Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard will participate in a conversation on the situation in Iran with former Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich, who has endorsed her campaign, and veteran foreign correspondent Stephen Kinzer in Concord, New Hampshire. The conversation will be moderated by Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig.
--- Entrepreneur Andrew Yang will hold a town hall in Ames, Iowa.