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Wake Up To Politics - January 24, 2020

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP world headquarters in my bedroom. It’s Friday, January 24, 2020. 10 days until the Iowa caucuses. 284 days until Election Day. Have questions, comments, or tips? Email me.

Announcement #1: The first episode of the Wake Up To Politics Podcast, a partnership with St. Louis Public Radio, is here! The episode is a behind-the-scenes look into how the Iowa caucuses work, how they came to be so important, and how they've changed in 2020. I'm so excited for you all to hear it! You can find the episode at stlpr.org/wakeup or anywhere you listen to podcasts. While you're at it, please do subscribe to the show if you haven't already and give it a review on Apple Podcasts. Thanks so much!

Announcement #2: Wake Up To Politics will not be publishing newsletters next week. I am headed to The Netherlands for a Model United Nations Conference with a delegation from my school. I know this is less-than-ideal timing, but I am incredibly excited for the opportunity, and I promise I will be back for the Iowa caucuses on Monday, February 3! Scroll down for a preview of what to watch for in the week ahead...

Democrats defend charging Trump with abuse of power

The third presidential impeachment trial in U.S. history continued into its second day of arguments on Thursday, as the House Democratic managers detailed their case for charging President Donald Trump with abuse of power.

"You know you can't trust this president do what's right for this country — you can trust he will do what's right for Donald Trump," House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, the lead manager, said in an emotional appeal to senators at the end of the day. "This is why if you find him guilty, you must find that he should be removed. Because right matters and truth matters. Otherwise we are lost."

Schiff and his fellow managers frequently turned President Trump's own words against him in their arguments, making repeated use of video screens in the Senate chamber to play the president's past statements as evidence. In one of the clips, Trump urged Ukraine to start a "major investigation" into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter — which Democrats held up as public proof of Trump's campaign to pressure Ukraine into investigating his possible 2020 rival, which is at the heart of the abuse of power charge.

"The president’s abuse of power, his betrayal of the national interest, and his corruption of our elections plainly qualify as great and dangerous offenses," House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler said. "President Trump has made clear in word and deed that he will persist in such conduct if he is not removed from power."

The managers also attempted to pre-empt expected arguments from their counterparts on Trump's defense team concerning Hunter Biden's work in Ukraine during his father's vice presidency. Rep. Sylvia Garcia spent about an hour on Thursday seeking to debunk Trump's claim that the elder Biden pushed to remove a Ukranian prosecutor as retaliation for an investigation into Burisma, the gas company which his son sat on the board of.

"There is simply no evidence, nothing, nada in the record to support this baseless allegation," Garcia said, arguing that the prosecutor was "widely perceived as corrupt" and his removal had been sought by the U.S. and its European allies.

As the trial's long days have continued, senators have grown increasingly restless watching the arguments: they are technically required to stay in their seats, remain silent, and surrender their cellphones for the duration of the proceedings. However, many lawmakers from both parties have opted to flout those guidelines, whispering with each other and leaving the chamber for stretches at a time. Some have even turned to using fidget spinners to pass the time.

Two senators who have never left their seats, however: Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, two moderate Republicans who are being closely watched during the trial as potential swing votes when the question of witnesses comes up again next week.

Week ahead: What to watch

At the Capitol: The House managers will conclude their opening arguments today. Then, President Trump's defense team — including White House counsel Pat Cipollone, famed constitutional lawyer Alan Dershowitz, and former independent counsels Ken Star and Robert Ray — will have three days (Saturday, Monday, and Tuesday) to press their side of the case. According to the organizing resolution earlier this week, senators will then have 16 hours to ask questions of the two sides.

After the Q&A, the Senate is expected to vote on whether it will subpoena any additional witnesses or documents as part of the trial. Democrats will push for testimony from former national security adviser John Bolton and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney; they need at least four Republicans to side with them for any subpoena to be approved.

Swing GOP votes to watch include Sens. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Mitt Romney of Utah. Also, watch out for the possibility of a "witness trade": Hunter Biden in exchange for John Bolton. Some Senate Democrats have reportedly mulled pushing for such an exchange, although Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York has publicly announced his opposition. Depending on whether witnesses are called, a final vote on the trial could take place at the end of next week.

At the White House: President Trump has a full week of counterprogramming planned as the impeachment trial continues. Trump will host Israeli leaders (including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his political rival Benny Gantz) at the White House on Tuesday; the president is expected to unveil his long-awaited Middle East peace plan during the summit.

The formal signing ceremony for the U.S.-Canada-Mexico Agreement (USMCA), President Trump's revised North American trade deal, will take place on Wednesday. And Trump will hold two campaign rallies next week: one in New Jersey on Tuesday and another in Iowa on Thursday, just as Democrats are congregating in the state as caucus season heats up.

On the campaign trail: Democratic presidential candidates — sans Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren, who are required to be in Washington for the Senate trial final — will race around Iowa for their week of campaigning ahead of the February 3 caucuses.

According to the RealClearPolitics polling average, Joe Biden is clinging to a slight lead in Iowa, standing at 21%, just ahead of Sanders and Warren at 17% and Pete Buttigieg at 16%. In other words: any of the leading four candidates could end up on top, and this coming week of frantic campaigning could move the needle. Sanders and Warren will both be flooding Iowa with surrogates while they remain in Washington for impeachment jury duty, while Biden and Buttigieg will continue to barnstorm the state themselves.


President Donald Trump will deliver remarks at the 45th annual March for Life, becoming the first sitting president to address the pro-life event. In the afternoon, he will meet with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and deliver remarks to the U.S. Conference of Mayors on "transforming America's communities."

Vice President Mike Pence arrived in the Vatican City early this morning and met with His Holiness Pope Francis and His Eminence Pietro Cardinal Parolin, Cardinal Secretary of State. He will also tour the Vatican, meet with Italy's president Sergio Mattarella and prime minister Giuseppe Conte, and participate in a  reception for military spouses.

The Senate convenes at 1 p.m. to "sit as a Court of Impeachment for the impeachment trial of Donald J. Trump, President of the United States." The House managers will conclude their three days of opening arguments.

The House will meet for a pro forma session.

The Supreme Court justices will meet for their weekly conference.

Former Vice President Joe Biden will attend a community event and a local stop in New Hampshire, as well as a fundraiser in Massachusetts. Former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg will hold a fundraiser in Massachusetts and a town hall in New Hampshire. Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard will host a town hall in New Hampshire. Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick will attend the "Pink Ice Gala" in South Carolina. Entrepreneur Andrew Yang will hold four town halls in Iowa.

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