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Wake Up To Politics - March 1, 2019

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Friday, March 1, 2019. 339 days until the 2020 Iowa caucuses. 613 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at gabe@wakeuptopolitics.com.

NYT: Trump ordered officials to give Kushner security clearance

President Donald Trump ordered his chief of staff at the time, John Kelly, to grant his son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, a top-secret security clearance last year, overruling the concerns of intelligence officials and his White House counsel, the New York Times reported.

According to the Times, Kelly wrote in an internal memo at the time that he was "ordered" by the president to give Kushner the clearance; the Times also reported on a memo by then-White House counsel Don McGahn outlining his recommendation that Kushner not receive top-secret clearance, citing concerns raised by the CIA. Kushner was granted a top-secret clearance in May 2018 after it was held up for more than a year, "in part over questions from the F.B.I. and the C.I.A. about his foreign and business contacts, including those related to Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Russia," per the Times.

The Kelly memo contradicts the president's public claim that he had no role in his son-in-law receiving clearance. Asked by the Times in a January interview if he told Kelly to overrule the security officials' decision on Kushner's clearance, Trump said: "No. I don't think I have the authority to do that. I'm not sure I do." Told that he did have such authority, the president said: "I was never involved with the security."

Additionally, Kushner's wife, Ivanka Trump, who is also a White House senior adviser, told an ABC News interviewer last month that "the president had no involvement pertaining to my clearance or my husband's clearance, zero." According to the Washington Post, Trump intervened after being pressured to do so by his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Kuhshner.  

House Oversight Committee chairman Elijah Cummings (D-MD) said in a statement Thursday that he had already requested "specific documents and interviews related to Mr. Kushner's clearance and a number of others" as part of an investigation into Trump administration security clearance, adding that he "expects with compliance with [the] requests as soon as possible, or it may become necessary to consider alternative means to compel compliance."

Cohen fallout: House Democrats plan new investigations

--- House Democrats are planning a number of new probes to follow up on claims made by former Trump personal attorney Michael Cohen in his bombshell testimony before the Oversight Committee on Wednesday, according to the Washington Post. The House Intelligence Committee now plans to call the Trump Organization's chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, to testify; the panel on Thursday also announced an open hearing planned for March 14 with Felix Sater, a Russian-born Trump associate who worked on the negotiations to build a Trump Tower Moscow. The Intelligence Committee, which interview Cohen behind closed doors for 7.5 hours on Thursday, will also bring him back for more closed testimony on March 6.

--- Oversight Committee chairman Cummings also said Thursday that he plans to pursue interviews with Weisselberg, Donald Trump Jr., and Ivanka Trump, all of whom were mentioned by Cohen on Wednesday in connection to the hush money payment to Stormy Daniels and the Trump Tower Moscow negotiations. "All you have to do is follow the transcript," Cummings said. "If there are names that were mentioned or records that were mentioned during the hearing, we want to take a look at all of that."

--- And House Financial Services Committee chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) is planning a probe into the Trump Foundation, per Politico.

--- Meanwhile, Reps. Jim Jordan (R-OH) and Mark Meadows (R-NC), two of Trump's top allies on the Oversight Committee, penned a letter to Attorney General Bill Barr on Thursday referring evidence that Cohen "committed perjury and knowingly made false statements" during his Wednesday testimony. The duo accused Cohen of making "numerous wilfully and intentionally false statements," concerning whether he committed bank fraud, whether he sought a White House job after the 2016 election, and whether he accurately filled out a form submitted to the committee, among other issues.

--- In a pair of tweets this morning, President Trump urged Congress to "demand the transcript" of a reported book shopped around by Cohen, saying that the book included a "love letter to Trump" that was the "exact opposite of his fake testimony, which now is a lie!"

Inslee launches 2020 presidential bid

Gov. Jay Inslee (D-WA) joined the crowded field of 2020 Democratic presidential contenders this morning, announcing his bid in a video focused on the issue that will be the centerpiece of his campaign, climate change.

"I'm running for president because I'm the only candidate who will make defeating climate change our nation's number one priority," he said in the launch video, previewing his single-issue campaign. The Washington Democrat is slated to hold a press conference in Seattle later today to formally announce his 2020 plans.

Inslee, 63, has spent decades in elected office, as a state representative from 1989 to 1993, a U.S. Representative from 1993 to 1995 and again from 1999 to 2012, and as governor since 2013. He served as chair of the Democratic Governors Association during the 2018 elections, traveling the country to campaign for fellow Democratic governors.

He is the first governor to join the 2020 Democratic field.

More 2020 news...

---- "Exclusive: Inside Joe Biden’s campaign in waiting" (The Hill)

--- "Beto O'Rourke's team gears up for a 2020 presidential bid as announcement looms" (CNN)

--- "Sanders tries to convince wary Democrats he's one of them" (Associated Press)

The Rundown

--- North Korea is disputing President Trump's account of why the negotiations between Trump and Kim Jong Un fell apart on Thursday. "It was about the sanctions," Trump said after the summit ended abruptly. "Basically they wanted the sanctions lifted in their entirety, but we couldn't do that." But North Korea's foreign minister, Ri Yong-ho, said Thursday that Kim only asked for some sanctions to be lifted as part of a potential nuclear agreement, insisting that he made a "realistic proposal." The president tweeted this morning that the negotiations were "very substantive," adding: "We know what they want and they know what we must have. Relationship very good, let's see what happens!"

Related read: "'He tells me he didn't know': Trump defends Kim Jong Un over death of Otto Warmbier" (Washington Post)

--- Senate Republicans are urging President Trump to rescind his national emergency declaration and use "less controversial" sources to fund construction of a wall on the southern border, according to the Wall Street Journal. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) decried the national emergency on the Senate floor on Thursday, calling it a "dangerous precedent." Three GOP senators — Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Thom Tillis of North Carolina —  have already said they will vote for the House-passed resolution blocking the national emergency; if Tillis joins them, the resolution would garner enough votes to pass.

--- Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist who has been serving as the Environmental Protection Agency's Acting Administrator, was confirmed by the Senate as the agency's Administrator on Thursday in a 52-47 vote. The vote was along party lines, except for a "no" vote from Susan Collins (R-ME), who opposed Wheeler's rolling back of federal regulations impacting climate change.

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White House schedule

--- President Trump has no events on his public schedule today.

--- At 10 a.m., Vice President Mike Pence will address the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), which bills itself annually as the nation's largest gathering of conservatives. President Trump will address the conference, which is themed "What Makes America Great" this year, on Saturday.

Congress schedule

Neither chamber of Congress is in session today.

Supreme Court schedule

The justices meet for their weekly Friday conference today.

*All times Eastern


Thursday's newsletter misquoted the Dallas Morning News report on Texas Democrat Beto O'Rourke's 2020 plans. The report read: "Beto O'Rourke has decided not to run for U.S. Senate next year against Texas Republican incumbent John Cornyn and likely will announce a campaign for president soon." Thank you to the readers who pointed the error out; my apologies for the confusion.