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Wake Up To Politics - May 15, 2019

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Wednesday, May 15, 2019. 264 days until the 2020 Iowa caucuses. 538 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at gabe@wakeuptopolitics.com.

The Investigations

--- Donald Trump Jr. agreed on Tuesday to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee in mid-June, heading off an intraparty fight within the GOP over a subpoena issued to the president's eldest son by the panel's chairman Richard Burr (R-NC). Under the terms of the agreement, Trump Jr. will testify behind closed doors for two to four hours, answering questions about five to six pre-approved topics related to the Russia investigation, including his involvement in a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer who promised to provide "dirt" on Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. A number of congressional Republicans criticized Burr after news outlets reported on the subpoena to Trump Jr., with Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC) urging Trump Jr. to refuse to answer questions and instead invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

--- The House Intelligence Committee is investigating whether President Trump's attorneys and family members attempted to obstruct the panel's Russia investigation, including by shaping 2017 false testimony by former Trump "fixer" Michael Cohen, according to the New York Times. Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) sent document requests to four lawyers tied to Trump earlier this month: Jay Sekulow, who represents the president; Alan Futerfas, who represents Donald Trump Jr.; Alan Garten, who represents the Trump Organization; and Abbe Lowell, who represents Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner.

--- A federal judge in Washington D.C. "expressed astonishment" on Tuesday at arguments made by President Trump's legal team attempting to avoid compliance with a Democratic effort to subpoena the president's financial records, according to the Washington Post. The Obama-appointed judge said that the subpoena — which is aimed at obtaining records from Mazars USA, the president's accounting firm — was part of a "proper subject of investigation" by Congress, suggesting that he would side with Democrats in the first court battle over a congressional oversight request since the House changed hands in January.

--- Attorney General William Barr has assigned John Durham, the U.S. attorney in Connecticut, to examine the origins of the Russia investigation, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday. Durham's will be the third inquiry into the FBI's decision to open a counterintelligence investigation into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia: Justice Department inspector general Micahel Horowitz and John Huber, the U.S. attorney in Utah, are also leading similar examinations. Since the release of special counsel Robert Mueller's report, President Trump has continued to attack the "Dirty Cops" who carried out the probe; this week, he has particularly disparaged FBI Director Christopher Wray, retweeting a criticism of him on Sunday and telling reporters on Tuesday that he "didn't understand" his answer to a congressional committee about whether the FBI "spied" on the Trump campaign in 2016.

--- Via the Associated Press: "Russian hackers gained access to voter databases in two Florida counties ahead of the 2016 presidential election, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis said at a news conference Tuesday."

"DeSantis said the hackers didn’t manipulate any data and the election results weren’t compromised... The governor said he signed an agreement with the FBI not to disclose the names of the counties, but elections officials in those counties are aware of the intrusions."

The Rundown

ABORTION: "Alabama’s Senate passed a near-total ban on abortion Tuesday, sending what would be the nation’s most stringent abortion law to the state’s Republican governor."

"The GOP-dominated Senate voted 25-6 to make performing an abortion at any stage of pregnancy a felony punishable by up to 99 years or life in prison for the abortion provider. The only exception would be when the woman’s health is at serious risk. Senators rejected an attempt to add an exception for rape and incest. The amendment was voted down 21-11, with four Republicans joining Democrats." (Associated Press)

2020 CENTRAL: "In the three weeks since [former Vice President Joe Biden] announced his candidacy, [President Trump] has tried out two nicknames on him, accused his opponent and family members of corrupt dealings with Ukraine (prompting a coordinated Democratic response), and argued that he’s naïve about the threats America faces."

..."Mr. Trump’s attacks on Mr. Biden have defied the pleadings of his own aides, who think almost any other candidate would be easier to defeat, and left Republicans puzzled while delighting Biden supporters." (New York Times)

TRADE WAR: "President Trump is telling advisers and close allies that he has no intention of pulling back on his escalating trade war with China, arguing that clashing with Beijing is highly popular with his political base and will help him win reelection in 2020 regardless of any immediate economic pain." (Washington Post)

NC-09: "Dan Bishop, a state senator and author of North Carolina's controversial 'bathroom bill,' beat back nine other Republican candidates Tuesday to clinch the GOP nomination for this year's redo election in the state's 9th Congressional District." (Politico)

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White House schedule

--- At 11 a.m., President Trump delivers remarks at the 38th Annual National Peace Officers’ Memorial Service at the U.S. Capitol. At 2:45 p.m., he meets with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in the Oval Office. At 7 p.m., President and First Lady Trump host the White House Historical Association Dinner in the East Room.

--- At 1:30 p.m., Vice President Mike Pence delivers a eulogy at the memorial service for his fellow Hoosier, the late Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN), in Indianapolis, Indiana. Lugar, who passed away at age 87 last month, was the longest-serving U.S. senator in Indiana history; he represented the state from 1977 to 2013, including two stints as chairman of the influential Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Congress schedule

--- The Senate convenes at 10 a.m. today. Roll call votes are expected after 5 p.m., although none have been scheduled thus far.

--- The House convenes at 10 a.m. today. The chamber is scheduled to vote on three pieces of legislation:

  1. H.R. 312 – Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Reservation Reaffirmation Act
  2. H.R. 375 – To amend the Act of June 18, 1934, to reaffirm the authority of the Secretary of the Interior to take land into trust for Indian Tribes, and for other purposes
  3. H.R. 1892 – Quadrennial Homeland Security Review Technical Corrections Act of 2019

Related to H.R. 312: "A riddle in New England: A casino, 321 acres of Indian tribal land and a presidential tweet" (Washington Post)

Supreme Court schedule

--- The Supreme Court justices do not have any conferences or oral arguments scheduled today.

2020 schedules

--- Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) holds a town hall in Nashua, New Hampshire.

--- Gov. Jay Inslee (D-WA) tours recent flood damage in Davenport, Iowa, and meets with elected officials, local business members, and community members.

*All times Eastern