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Wake Up To Politics - March 14, 2019

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Thursday, March 14, 2019. 326 days until the 2020 Iowa caucuses. 600 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at gabe@wakeuptopolitics.com.

Beto O'Rourke joins 2020 presidential race

Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-TX) launched his 2020 presidential campaign this morning. O'Rourke, 46, gained Democratic celebrity status with his Senate run last year, inspiring national grassroots energy and shattering fundraising records but ultimately losing the race to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX).

"I'm running to serve you as the next president of the United States of America," O'Rourke said in his announcement video. "This is a defining moment of truth for this country and for every single one of us.

"The challenges that we face right now, the interconnected crises in our economy, our democracy and our climate have never been greater," he added. "They will either consume us, or they will afford us the greatest opportunity to unleash the genius of the United States of America."

O'Rourke will begin campaigning in Iowa today, launching a three-day trip to the first-in-the-nation caucus state before holding a kick-off rally in his hometown, El Paso, on March 30. Just eight years ago, O'Rourke was a member of the El Paso City Council; he went on to serve three terms in the U.S. House, his only political experience heading into a bid for the presidency.

However, despite his lean résumé, O'Rourke is one of the few candidates with the potential to shake up the Democratic primary race, after his $80 million Senate campaign inspired months of speculation about his next move and whether he would make a run for the White House. O'Rourke was defeated by Cruz by three percentage points in 2018, a close margin for the deep-red Texas.

O'Rourke poses an immediate generational contrast to many of his rivals, but where he will fall ideologically in the crowded Democratic field is less clear. He took a number of progressive positions during his Senate bid, on issues including marijuana legalization and gun control, but has distanced himself from advocating for a "Medicare for All" health care plan and received criticism for accepting numerous donations from the oil and gas industry. O'Rourke was defined less during his Senate bid by his stances on the issues than his campaign style, holding frequent town hall events during visits to all 254 of Texas' counties.

The Texan is the eleventh current or former elected official to enter the 2020 Democratic presidential primaries; with his announcement, the only major holdout yet to announce their intentions is former Vice President Joe Biden. The Hill reported earlier this week that Biden has told at least one senior Democratic lawmaker that he will run for president, although he is not expected to launch a potential campaign until April.

Senate set to rebuke Trump on national emergency

The Senate will vote today on a House-passed resolution overturning President Trump's declaration of a national emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border. The resolution is expected to pass, with five Senate Republicans having already announced their intentions to support the measure: Susan Collins (ME), Mike Lee (UT), Lisa Murkowski (AK), and Thom Tillis (NC). Several other Republicans are expected to join them, in a rare rebuke of the president, their party's leader.

Lee announced Wednesday that he would vote for the disapproval resolution, after Trump informed him the Utahn that he would not accept his proposed compromise, a measure that would have allowed the current national emergency but limited the president's emergency powers going forward. Presidents have declared dozens of national emergencies since a 1976 law granted them the power to do so; Trump's declaration allowed him to divert funds to finance construction of his proposed border wall, after Congress declined to appropriate his requested funding for the project, the first time a president has used the law to circumvent the legislative branch in this way.

If the Senate approves it today, the resolution will then head to President Trump's desk, where it will almost certainly become the first veto of his presidency. "A big National Emergency vote today by The United States Senate on Border Security & the Wall (which is already under major construction). I am prepared to veto, if necessary," Trump tweeted this morning. "The Southern Border is a National Security and Humanitarian Nightmare, but it can be easily fixed!"

The vote will be the second bipartisan Senate vote in as many days rebuffing Trump, after the chamber approved a resolution on Wednesday to cut off U.S. backing for the Saudi-led coalition in the Yemen war, which the president supports. House Democratic leaders are expected to hold a vote on the Yemen resolution in the coming days, setting up yet another presidential veto in an administration that has yet to see one.

Neither resolution was passed with a veto-proof majority, meaning Congress will likely be unable to overturn the president's rejections, even though they mark a symbolic departure from the Republican unity that mostly existed between lawmakers and the Trump administration for its first two years in office.

Manafort sentenced to additional 3½ years in prison

Via the Washington Post:

"Once a globe-trotting lobbyist and consultant to presidents, Paul Manafort left a Washington courtroom Wednesday a felon twice over, facing down a 7½-year prison sentence."

"As he returned to the jail cell in Alexandria, Va., where he has been held for nine months, prosecutors in New York announced a 16-count grand jury indictment charging the former Trump campaign chairman with mortgage fraud, falsifying business records and conspiracy."

"President Trump would not be able to pardon Manafort, 69, on the separate state case. Under the Constitution, presidents have wide authority to pardon, but that power applies only to federal convictions."

"In federal court Wednesday, Judge Amy Berman Jackson criticized Manafort and his attorneys for repeatedly casting his hard fall from power as collateral damage from the special counsel’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign."

..."For Manafort’s crimes of illegally lobbying in Ukraine and hiding the proceeds overseas, then encouraging witnesses to lie on his behalf, Jackson’s terms added 43 months to the 47 months he received in Alexandria federal court last week for bank and tax fraud. Her total sentence was 73 months in the D.C. case, but Jackson said 30 of those would overlap with the tally in Virginia."

The Investigations

--- "The former acting attorney general Matthew G. Whitaker 'did not deny' in a private meeting with House lawmakers on Wednesday that he had spoken to President Trump about an investigation in New York that had ensnared the president and his business, the Democratic chairman of the House Judiciary Committee said."

"Speaking after the meeting, the chairman, Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, presented Mr. Whitaker’s comments as being at odds with his public testimony last month before the Judiciary Committee. In that hearing, Mr. Whitaker generally would not say if he had communicated with the president about the case, which led to charges against Michael D. Cohen, Mr. Trump’s former personal lawyer and fixer." (New York Times)

--- "Federal prosecutors have requested Michael Cohen’s communications with a New York lawyer who last year sought a pardon on Mr. Cohen’s behalf, the lawyer said."

"Robert Costello said the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office last week requested his communications with Mr. Cohen, a former lawyer for President Trump. The prosecutors also provided Mr. Costello with a waiver that Mr. Cohen had signed, allowing Mr. Costello to disclose his conversations with the attorney."

"Among the communications Mr. Costello is expected to turn over were emails he exchanged with Mr. Cohen following an FBI raid of Mr. Cohen’s properties in which Mr. Costello assured him he had 'friends in high places.'" (Wall Street Journal)

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White House schedule

--- At 10:50 a.m., President Trump meets with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar of Ireland in celebration of St. Patrick's Day. At 11:05 a.m., the two leaders participate in an expanded bilateral meeting. According to the White House, they "will discuss how to further strengthen relations between the United States and Ireland, including enhancing economic and people-to-people ties."

At 12 p.m., the president participates in the  annual Friends of Ireland luncheon at the U.S. Capitol. At 6 p.m., President and First Lady Trump participate in the Shamrock Bowl Presentation by the Irish Taoiseach.

Congress schedule

--- The Senate meets today at 10 a.m. The chamber is expected to vote at about 1:45 p.m. on passage of H.J.Res 46, the House-passed resolution overturning President Trump's declaration of a national emergency on the southern border.

--- The House meets at 9 a.m today. The chamber will vote at around 10:30 a.m. on H.Con.Res.24, "expressing the sense of Congress that the report of Special Counsel Mueller should be made available to the public and to Congress."

Also today: Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross will testify before the House Oversight and Reform Committee at 10 a.m., just days after a second federal judge ruled that he violated federal law and the Constitution by adding a question on citizenship to the 2020 census.

Supreme Court schedule

--- The Supreme Court has no oral arguments or conferences scheduled today.

*All times Eastern