5 min read

Wake Up To Politics - January 9, 2019

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Wednesday, January 9, 2019. 390 days until the 2020 Iowa caucuses. 664 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at gabe@wakeuptopolitics.com.

Trump makes case for border wall in primetime address

As the partial government shutdown continues, President Donald Trump made his case to the American people for building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border in his first Oval Office address on Tuesday night.  

Trump spent much of his nine-minute speech detailing the situation at the border, which he called "a humanitarian crisis — a crisis of the heart and a crisis of the soul," adding that building the wall "is absolutely critical" to solving the issue. He described illegal immigration as hurting "all Americans," saying it caused a "cycle of human suffering that I am determined to end," giving examples of crimes committed by those who entered the U.S. illegally. "How much more American blood must we shed before Congress does its job?" Trump asked.

His speech included multiple misleading claims, including his assertion that the government was shut down "for one reason and one reason only: because Democrats will not fund border security," when he said last month that he would "take the mantle" of being "the one to shut it down." He claimed that Democrats had requested the border wall be "a steel barrier rather than a concrete wall," although no evidence of such a request exists. Trump also misleadingly connected the issues of illegal immigration and opioids, saying that 90% of heroin in the U.S. comes through the southern border, without acknowledging that a border wall would have no impact on that amount, since nearly all of it amount comes through legal points of entry.

In addition, the president insisted that "the wall will also be paid for indirectly by the great new trade deal we have made with Mexico," although the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) has yet to be ratified by Congress, and even if it is approved, the Washington Post's Fact Checker called Trump's claim that it would pay for the wall "nonsensical."

Immediately after the president's address, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) delivered the Democratic response. Pelosi accused Trump of "manufacturing a crisis" at the border and "holding the American people hostage" by refusing to reopen the government until his $5.7 billion border wall request is fully funded. Both Democratic leaders urged the president to "separate the shutdown from arguments over border security," in Schumer's words, and sign the House-passed continuing resolutions to reopen the government "while allowing debate over border security to continue."

"There is no excuse for hurting millions of Americans over a policy difference," Schumer said, ending his speech with a plea to the president: "End this shutdown now."

In his address, Trump responded to Speaker Pelosi's previous description of the border wall as "immoral," saying: "The only thing that is immoral is the politicians to do nothing and continue to allow more innocent people to be so horribly victimized." Notably, the president did not use his address to declare a national emergency, an idea he has floated in recent days that would allow him to pay for the wall's construction unilaterally, although the proposal reportedly remains on the table.

With a solution to the funding impasse remaining elusive, congressional leaders will return to the White House today for their third meeting with President Trump in the last week. Before the meeting, Trump will be on Capitol Hill to attend a meeting of Senate Republicans, likely to rally his party amid signs of cracks in support for his shutdown stance. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) on Tuesday became the third Senate Republican to call for the appropriations bills to be approved while negotiations over the border wall continue, joining Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Cory Gardner (R-CO). "I think we can walk and chew gum," Murkowski said.

Last week, House Democrats approved measures to fund the Department of Homeland Security through February and the other shuttered federal agencies through September. Today, they will continue to place pressure on the Senate by passing appropriations bills individually, hoping to gain Republican support. According to Politico, House Republican leaders fear "several dozen" of their members could defect and back the stopgap bills.

The Russia investigation

Breaking this morning: Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is expected to step down "in the coming weeks," after Attorney General nominee William Barr is confirmed, ABC News reported. Multiple news outlets have confirmed the report. Rosenstein was the one who appointed special counsel Robert Mueller in May 2017, and he has overseen the investigation ever since, coming under frequent criticism by President Trump.

Manafort shared Trump campaign polling data with Russian associate: A court filing unsealed on Tuesday revealed that Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort shared polling data during the 2016 election with a business associate, Konstantin Kilimnik, who is a Russian citizen with ties to Russian intelligence. According to the New York Times, the document "provided the evidence to date that the Trump campaign may have tried to coordinate with Russians during the 2016 presidential race."

The revelation came in a filing by Manafort's lawyers, although they had intended to redact the explosive details. In the filing, Manafort's lawyers say that Mueller has accused Manafort of lying "about sharing polling data with Mr. Kilimnik related to the 2016 presidential campaign" and about discussing a Ukranian peace plan with Kilimnik at a previously-unreported meeting in Madrid.

Russian in Trump Tower meeting charged in separate case: Via CNN... "The Russian lawyer [Natalya Veselnitskaya] who attended a 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with members of the Trump campaign was charged by federal prosecutors in New York with obstruction of justice in connection with a money-laundering case, according to an indictment unsealed Tuesday that highlighted her ties to the Russian government."

Supreme Court rules against mysterious corporation fighting Mueller subpoena: Via the Washington Post... "The Supreme Court on Tuesday left in place a lower-court order requiring an unnamed foreign-owned corporation to comply with a subpoena said to be part of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election."

2020 Central

Happening today: California billionaire Tom Steyer, the founder of climate group NextGen and the "Need to Impeach" campaign, will announce his future political plans at a news conference in Des Moines. Steyer has floated the possibility of running for president in 2020.

Do you like Wake Up To Politics? Share it with your colleagues, friends, and family! Please forward this newsletter to them and tell them to sign up at wakeuptopolitics.com/subscribe!

White House schedule

At 11:30 a.m., President Trump participates in a signing ceremony for a piece of anti-human trafficking legislation.

At 12 p.m., he receives his intelligence briefing. He then heads to Capitol Hill to attend the Senate Republican policy lunch at 1 p.m.

At 3 p.m., the president meets with congressional leadership at the White House Situation Room.

Congress schedule

Senate: The Senate convened at 10 a.m. today. Following leader remarks, the chamber will resume consideration of S.1, the Strengthening America's Security in the Middle East Act. Senate Democrats blocked the measure, which would impose sanctions on Syria and counter the global movement to boycott Israel, from advancing on Tuesday, calling on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to hold a vote on reopening the government before considering other pieces of legislation. The vote was 56-44, with four Democratic senators in support.

The Senate will recess from 12:15 p.m. to 2:15 p.m. to allow for the weekly caucus meetings.

House: The House will convene at 10 a.m. The chamber will vote on H.R. 264, which would fund the Treasury Department and other financial services agencies, the first in a series of bills the House plans to consider that would individually fund government agencies.

The House is also slated to complete consideration of H.Res. 6, the House Democrats' rules package, and hold a vote on H.R. 226, the Clarity on Small Business Participation in Category Management Act.

Supreme Court schedule

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Franchise Tax Board of California v. Hyatt, which considers "whether to overrule a precedent that allows a state to be sued in the courts of another state without its consent," according to SCOTUSBlog.

*All times Eastern