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Wake Up To Politics - May 16, 2019

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Thursday, May 16, 2019. 263 days until the 2020 Iowa caucuses. 537 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at gabe@wakeuptopolitics.com.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announces 2020 presidential bid

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio launched his campaign this morning to seek the Democratic presidential nomination, rounding out the packed field of contenders as the 24th candidate in the race.

"As president, I will take on the wealthy. I will take on the big corporations. I will not rest until this government serves working people," de Blasio said in a YouTube video announcing his bid, adding later: "Donald Trump must be stopped. I've beaten him before, and I will do it again."

Despite de Blasio's stature as the twice-elected executive of America's most-populated city, his presidential efforts have yet to gain traction. In national polls conducted before his rollout, the mayor has never received support from more than 1% of the Democratic primary electorate. A Quinnipiac survey of New York City voters last month found that more of his constituents disapprove of his job performance as mayor (44%) than approve (42%), and 76% of those polled said he should not run for president.

De Blasio was first elected mayor in 2013 with 73% of the vote, and he was re-elected with 67% of the vote in 2017. He previously served as the city's Public Advocate and on the New York City Council; before entering politics himself, de Blasio served in the Clinton-era Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) under then-Secretary and now-Governor (and sometimes-rival) Andrew Cuomo and managed Hillary Clinton's successful U.S. Senate bid in 2000.

As mayor, de Blasio has attempted to assert himself as a national progressive leader, implementing a "pre-K for all" program and a $15 minimum wage. According to a Wake Up To Politics analysis, he has already received the polling support necessary to gain entry onto the first two Democratic debate stages (the 20th candidate to do so), giving him an automatic opportunity to spread his message while standing among his higher-polling rivals.

De Blasio is expected to fly to Iowa later today after an appearance on ABC's "Good Morning America," before campaigning in the first-in-the-nation caucus state on Friday and then continuing on to South Carolina for events over the weekend. Wake Up To Politics was the first to report on de Blasio's Iowa trip and his impending presidential announcement, in a tweet on Wednesday night.

If elected, de Blasio — or South Bend's Pete Buttigieg, another Democratic candidate — would be the first president to go directly from a city hall to the Oval Office, although three previous presidents (Andrew Johnson, Grover Cleveland, and Calvin Coolidge) were former mayors. De Blasio would not be the first New York City mayor to try, however: John Lindsay sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 1972, and Rudy Giuliani ran for the Republican nod in 2008.

More 2020 news...

--- Buttigieg has hired the advertising firm that handled paid media for Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign, per Politico.

--- Former Vice President Joe Biden has chosen Philadelphia as the cite of his 2020 campaign headquarters, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports, ahead of his kick-off campaign rally in the city on Saturday.

--- Gov. Steve Bullock (D-MT) was formally endorsed by Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller this morning. Miller is the first statewide elected official in the early caucus state to pick a 2020 Democrat.

Trump to unveil merit-based immigration plan

President Donald Trump will unveil a new immigration proposal in a Rose Garden event today. According to the New York Times, Trump's plan is expected to "vastly scale back" the family-based immigration system that allows migrants to bring their spouses and children to live with them in the U.S., instead emphasizing "opportunities for immigrants who have specific skills or job offers to work in the United States, provided they can demonstrate English proficiency and educational attainment, and pass a civics exam."

The plan, which was drafted mainly by the president's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, is not expected to address the status of immigrants currently living in the United States illegally, including undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, known as "Dreamers."

Lawmakers have widely panned the proposal in advance of its release, leading many to pronounce it dead-on-arrival at Capitol Hill. Kushner spoke about the plan at a lunch with Republican senators on Tuesday; according to the Washington Post, he struggled to sway the group, failing to provide "clear answers to some questions from the friendly audience."

The Rundown

ABORTION: Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed a bill into law on Wednesday banning almost all abortions in the state. The legislation outlaws abortion at every stage of pregnancy and would result in criminal punishment for doctors who perform the procedure. An exception is made only for cases when the mother's life is in danger; an amendment to add exceptions for cases of rape or incest was rejected by the state Senate. States across the country are currently passing restrictive abortion laws, setting up a bevy of likely court battles on the issue; early this morning, the Missouri State Senate passed a bill banning abortions after eight weeks of pregnancy, with no exceptions for rape or incest.

OVERSIGHT WARS: The Trump administration on Wednesday refused to comply with a House Judiciary Committee request for records and testimony from 81 current and former White House officials. "Congressional investigations are intended to obtain information to aid in evaluating potential legislation, not to harass political opponents or to pursue an unauthorized 'do-over' of exhaustive law enforcement investigations conducted by the Department of Justice," White House counsel Pat Cipollone said in a letter to chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), referring to special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.

--- Attorney General William Barr approached House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) at an event on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, cracking a joke about her caucus' attempts to hold him in contempt of Congress. "Madam Speaker," he said, according to numerous media accounts. "Did you bring your handcuffs?" A formal contempt vote by the full House is expected soon; the chamber could opt to invoke its "inherent contempt" powers, which would allow the House Sergeant-at-Arms to arrest Barr, a process that has not been initiated since 1934.

IRAN: "The Trump administration has been on high alert in response to what military and intelligence officials have deemed specific and credible threats from Iran against U.S. personnel in the Middle East," the Washington Post reports.

"But President Trump is frustrated with some of his top advisers, who he thinks could rush the United States into a military confrontation with Iran and shatter his long-standing pledge to withdraw from costly foreign wars, according to several U.S. officials. Trump prefers a diplomatic approach to resolving tensions and wants to speak directly with Iran’s leaders."

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White House schedule

--- At 11:50 a.m., President Trump meets with Ueli Maurer, the president of Switzerland. According to the White House, "the two leaders will discuss the partnership between the United States and Switzerland, including matters such as Switzerland’s role in facilitating diplomatic relations and other international issues." (Switzerland traditionally serves as the diplomatic interlocutor between the U.S. and Iran.)

At 1:30 p.m., Trump receives his daily intelligence briefing.

At 2:30 p.m., the president delivers remarks on "modernizing our immigration system for a stronger America" in the Rose Garden.

He will then travel to New York City, where he will attend two fundraising events (a roundtable at 6:30 p.m. and a dinner at 7 p.m.) before heading to Trump Tower, where he will spend the night.

--- Vice President Mike Pence travels to Wisconsin today. At 1:40 p.m., Pence participates in a roundtable discussion with local Wisconsin business leaders at J&D Manufacturing, an industrial supplier and distributor in Eau Claire. At 2:05 p.m., he delivers remarks to J&D Manufacturing employees on the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). He will then head to U.S. Army Garrison Fort McCoy near Tomah, where he will tour the RG-31 medium mine protected vehicle at 5:35 p.m. and deliver remarks to service members at 6 p.m., before returning to Washington, D.C.

Congress schedule

--- The Senate convenes at 10 a.m. today. At 12 p.m., the chamber will vote on confirmation of two nominations: Wendy Vitter to be a U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of Louisiana and Brian J. Bulatao to be Under Secretary of State for Management. Vitter, the wife of former Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), is currently the general counsel of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans; Bulatao is currently the Chief Operating Officer of the CIA.

At 1:45 p.m., the Senate votes on confirmation of Jeffrey A. Rosen to be Deputy Attorney General. Rosen, who has served as Deputy Secretary of Transportation since May 2017, would succeed Rod Rosenstein, whose tenure at DOJ was marked by his appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller and oversight of the ensuing investigation.

--- The House convenes at 10 a.m. today. The chamber will consider H.R. 987, the Strengthening Health Care and Lowering Prescription Drug Costs Act, a package of seven Democratic health care bills that would ban so-called "junk insurance" policies, provide funding for states to set up their own health insurance marketplaces under Obamacare, and restore funding for Obamacare enrollment marketing.

Also today, at 12 p.m.: about 20 House Democrats will stage a public reading of the redacted Mueller report, expected to continue through early Friday, per the Washington Post.

Supreme Court schedule

--- The Supreme Court justices meet for their weekly conference today.

2020 schedules

--- Gov. Steve Bullock (D-MT) hosts a meet and greet in Des Moines, Iowa.

--- South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks at the City Club of Chicago luncheon in Chicago. According to the Associated Press, he will also attend a fundraiser in Chicago hosted by some of former President Barack Obama's top bundlers.

--- Former HUD Secretary Julián Castro will participate in an educators' roundtable in San Francisco, and join an Unfair Labor Practice strike picket line being held by the University Professional and Technical Employees (UPTE) of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) at the University of California, San Francisco.

--- Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) holds two meet and greets in Las Vegas, one with Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and another with Latinx leaders.

--- Gov. Jay Inslee (D-WA) will unveil "a major new policy proposal" at the Blue Plains Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant in Washington, D.C., the largest advanced wastewater plant in the world.

--- Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) holds a town hall in Fairfax, Virginia.

*All times Eastern