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Wake Up To Politics - January 29, 2019

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Tuesday, January 29, 2019. 17 days until government funding expires. 370 days until the 2020 Iowa caucuses. 644 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at gabe@wakeuptopolitics.com.

2020 Central

The 2020 Democratic presidential primary field is wide open, according to a new Washington Post/ABC News poll released this morning. 56% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents said they had no preference for the Democratic presidential nomination. When the 44% who said they did have a preference were asked to name their favorite, no candidate received support in the double digits. 9% said former Vice President Joe Biden, 8% said Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), and 4% said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). "Other" led the field with 12%.

Meanwhile, 56% of Americans said in the poll that they would "definitely not" vote to re-elect President Donald Trump, while 14% said they would consider voting for him and 28% said they will definitely vote for him. Per The Post: "Majorities of independents (59 percent), women (64 percent) and suburbanites (56 percent) rule out supporting Trump for a second term." Nearly one-in-three Republicans and Republican-leaning independents — 32% — said they would rather see someone besides President Trump as the Republican nominee in 2020.

--- Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz's bumpy testing of the presidential waters continued Monday, as he was heckled ("Don't help elect Trump, you egotistical billionaire!") at his first event debuting his new book. According to CBS News, Schultz has hired two veteran political operatives to shape his potential Independent presidential campaign: Steve Schmidt, who was the chief strategist for John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign, and Bill Burton, national press secretary during Barack Obama's 2008 campaign and later Deputy White House Press Secretary during the Obama Administration.

--- President Trump weighed in with a tweet on Monday: "Howard Schultz doesn’t have the 'guts' to run for President! Watched him on @60Minutes last night and I agree with him that he is not the 'smartest person.' Besides, America already has that! I only hope that Starbucks is still paying me their rent in Trump Tower!"

--- Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is mulling a Democratic presidential bid, visits the first-in-the-nation primary state of New Hampshire today. Bloomberg, who has considered running as an Independent in the past, closed the door on such a run Monday in a shot across the bow to Schultz, stating: "In 2020, the great likelihood is that an independent would just split the anti-Trump vote and end up re-electing the President."

--- Former Vice President Joe Biden said at an event in Florida on Monday that he's "a lot closer" to his decision on a White House run. "We'll make a decision soon," he promised.

The Investigations

Acting AG says Mueller probe is nearing completion: Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker said at an unrelated news conference on Monday that special counsel Robert Mueller is nearing the end of his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. "The investigation is, I think, close to being completed, and I hope that we can get the report from Director Mueller as soon as possible," he said. Although multiple news outlets have reported that Mueller could submit his final report as soon as next month, this was the first confirmation by a senior Justice Department official to that end.

--- But, but, but... "Mueller team signals to Stone associate another indictment may be in the works" (CNN)

Stone arrangement: Longtime Republican consultant and "dirty trickster" Roger Stone, an early political adviser to President Trump, will appear in a D.C. federal court at 11 AM today for his arraignment after being indicted with seven counts of false statements, witness tampering, and obstruction of justice last week. Stone is expected to enter a plea of not guilty.

Bipartisan bill on Mueller report: Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) introduced a bipartisan bill on Monday that would require special counsel Robert Mueller's final report be provided to Congress and the public. Currently, Mueller must submit his report to the Attorney General, who then decides which parts of the report, if any, should be submitted to Congress and the public.

Cohen to testify on Feb. 8:Michael Cohen, President Trump's former personal attorney, will voluntarily testify before the House Intelligence Committee in a closed hearing on February 8, chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) announced on Monday. Cohen is also expected to testify before the Oversight Committee on February 7, despite briefly backing out of that hearing due to "ongoing threats against his family."

Manafort sentencing canceled: A federal judge on Monday canceled former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort's scheduled February 8 sentencing, announcing that he was postponing the sentencing until a separate dispute between Manafort and special counsel Mueller over whether Manafort violated a plea agreement is resolved.

The Rundown

Book club: Two new books from inside Trumpworld are set to be published today... "Team of Vipers: My 500 Extraordinary Days in the Trump White House" by former Trump campaign and White House communications aide Cliff Sims (more from the book), and "Let Me Finish: Trump, the Kushners, Bannon, New Jersey, and the Power of In-Your-Face Politics" by former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a 2016 Trump rival-turned-endorser who briefly led the future president's transition team (more from the book).  

Venezuela sanctions: "The Trump administration has announced sanctions on Venezuela's state-owned oil company, PDVSA, in an attempt to undercut Nicolás Maduro's regime and boost his rival for power, National Assembly President Juan Guaidó." (Axios)

Shutdown impact: "A report released Monday by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office found that the economy took an $11 billion hit, including $3 billion that's gone forever, in the 35 days that parts of the federal government went unfunded." (NBC News)

New SOTU date: In a letter on Monday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) invited President Donald Trump to deliver his State of the Union address on February 5. Trump quickly accepted, responding in a letter of his own: "We have a great story to tell and yet, great goals to achieve! I look forward to seeing you on the 5th." The speech was originally scheduled to be given today, but was postponed due to the government shutdown.

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White House schedule

POTUS: President Trump has no public events scheduled today.

VP: At 3:45 PM, Vice President Mike Pence meets with Carlos Alfredo Vecchio, the envoy to the United States appointed by Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, who has been recognized by President Trump as the country's legitimate president.

Congress schedule

Senate: The Senate convenes at 10 AM today. Following Leader remarks, the chamber will resume consideration of S.1, the Strengthening America's Security in the Middle East Act, which would impose additional sanctions on Syria, boost military support for Israel and Jordan, and allow state and local governments to break ties with companies that boycott or divest from Israel.

Hearings today:

  • 9:30 AM: Intelligence Committee hearing on "worldwide threats," with testimony from the heads of the FBI, CIA, ODNI, DIA, NSA, and NGA
  • 10 AM: Judiciary Committee business meetings to consider nominations, including Attorney General nominee Bill Barr

House: The House convenes at 10 AM. The chamber is scheduled to consider seven pieces of legislation today:

  1. H.R. 424 – Department of Homeland Security Clearance Management and Administration Act
  2. H.R. 495 – FIRST State and Local Law Enforcement Act
  3. H.R. 428 – Homeland Security Assessment of Terrorists’ Use of Virtual Currencies Act
  4. H.R. 449 – Pathways to Improving Homeland Security at the Local Level Act
  5. H.R. 504 – DHS Field Engagement Accountability Act
  6. H.R. 769 – Counterterrorism Advisory Board Act of 2019
  7. H.Res. 77 – Expressing the sense of Congress that financial institutions and other companies should work proactively with their customers affected by the shutdown of the Federal Government who may be facing short-term financial hardship and long-term damage to their creditworthiness through no fault of their own, as amended

Hearings today:

  • 10 AM: Judiciary Committee hearing on the Democratic reform package, the For the People Act (H.R. 1)
  • 10AM: Armed Services Committee hearing on "Department of Defense's support to the Southern border"
  • 11 AM: Oversight Committee hearing "examining the actions of drug companies in raising prescription drug prices"

Supreme Court schedule

The Supreme Court is currently between sittings.

*All times Eastern