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Wake Up To Politics - May 22, 2019

I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Wednesday, May 22, 2019. 257 days until the 2020 Iowa caucuses. 531 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at gabe@wakeuptopolitics.com.

The Investigations

--- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is holding a closed-door meeting with members of her caucus today to discuss congressional oversight of the Trump administration and the possibility of opening impeachment proceedings against the president. The rift among House Democrats on impeachment appears to be growing, especially in light of former White House counsel Don McGahn's refusal to appear at a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday. According to the Washington Post, 25 House Democrats publicly called for an impeachment inquiry on Monday and Tuesday, adding pressure on Pelosi; members of her leadership team also reportedly urged her to open impeachment proceedings at a private meeting on Monday. Per Politico, even some freshman Democrats in vulnerable House seats — many of whom had previously shot down calls for impeachment — are beginning to warm to the idea.

--- Meanwhile, the House Judiciary Committee subpoenaed yet more former Trump administration officials on Tuesday, demanding documents and testimony from former White House communications director Hope Hicks and McGahn's former chief of staff Annie Donaldson. Hicks was one of Trump's longest-serving and closest aides; Donaldson is notable due to her copious notes chronicling her tenure at McGahn's side, which were cited extensively in special counsel Robert Mueller's report.

--- According to CNN, negotiations over Mueller's potential testimony before the House Judiciary Committee have hit a snag, with members of the special counsel's team expressing reluctance about him testifying publicly. The two sides are discussing Mueller testifying behind closed doors, although many House Democrats are pushing for a televised hearing with Mueller. Judiciary Committee chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) has repeatedly threatened to subpoena Mueller to compel his testimony if necessary.

--- Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with the leaders of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday, the Daily Beast reported. According to the report, he spent upwards of six hours discussing the Trump administration's relationship with Russia and other aspects of his tumultuous tenure.

--- Interesting read: "Confidential draft IRS memo says tax returns must be given to Congress unless president invokes executive privilege" (Washington Post)

--- The New York state Assembly is expected to vote today on a bill that would allow Congress to obtain the state tax returns of individuals holding high-level public office, effectively handing President Trump's state tax returns to House investigators. The vote comes a day after the state Assembly approved a bill narrowing Trump's pardon power, allowing prosecutors to pursue state charges against individuals who have received a presidential pardon.

The Trump Administration

--- President Trump is expected to name former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli as his administration's "immigration czar," placing the hard-liner in charge of coordinating immigration policy across multiple agencies, according to the New York Times. Cuccinelli, who met with the president on Monday, would likely be based in the Department of Homeland Security, although the "czar" was originally expected to be a White House post.

--- The president on Tuesday announced his next Air Force Secretary nominee: Barbara Barrett, the former chairwoman of the Aerospace Corporation. "She will be an outstanding Secretary!" Trump tweeted. If confirmed, Barrett would succeed Heather Wilson, who is resigning from the post at the end of the month.

--- Two top White House aides announced on Tuesday that they are heading for the exits: Johnny DeStefano, a counselor to the president, and Shahira Knight, the White House director of legislative affairs. Both had been key members of Trump's staff since his inauguration and their departures further deplete the shrinking stable of aides in Trump's inner circle. Knight, who began as deputy director of the National Economic Council and is now Trump's top envoy to Congress, will leave in early June and return to the private sector. DeStefano, who entered the administration a Director of the Office of Presidential Personnel and later added overseeing the Offices of Intergovernmental Affairs, Political Affairs, and Public Liasion to his portfolio, will step down on Friday to do consulting work. Neither have successors lined up.

2020 Central

--- "Bernie Sanders — who swore off big-money fundraisers and criticized Hillary Clinton’s fundraising as 'obscene' during the 2016 campaign — is changing his approach as the scramble for Democratic campaign cash heats up."

"The Vermont senator has decided to hold in-person fundraising events where donors of all means will be invited and the media will be allowed. He has also hired a fundraiser to oversee the effort, a position he did not have in his 2016 bid." (Politico)


--- "Joe Biden is finding unexpected online fundraising success from low-dollar donors, with more than 97% of his contributions coming from those who gave less than $200, his presidential campaign announced Tuesday." (Associated Press)

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White House schedule

--- At 11:15 a.m., President Trump meets with congressional Democrats on infrastructure, a follow-up to their meeting on the issue in late April. In a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) on Tuesday, the president effectively ended the negotiations with a demand that Congress first approve his trade pact with Mexico and Canada before infrastructure talks could continue.

At 3:10 p.m., Trump participates in the Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor presentation ceremony. At 7 p.m., he participates in a roundtable discussion with supporters at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. At 7:05 p.m., he delivers remarks at a fundraising committee reception at the Trump Hotel.

--- Vice President Mike Pence travels to North Carolina, today. At 12:30 p.m., he participates in the Republican National Convention kickoff in Charlotte. At 2:30 p.m., he participates in a tour of Parkdale Mills, a local business. At 3:10 p.m., he delivers remarks at Parkdale Mills. At 6 p.m., he participates in a Trump Victory event in Greensboro.

Congress schedule

--- The Senate convenes at 9:30 a.m. today. At 4:30 p.m., the chamber will vote on confirmation of four nominees: Howard C. Nielson, Jr. (to be a U.S. District Judge for the District of Utah), Stephen R. Clark, Sr. (to be a U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of Missouri), Carl J. Nichols (to be a U.S. District Judge for the District of Columbia), and Kenneth D. Bell (to be a U.S. District Judge for the Western District of North Carolina).

--- The House convenes at 10 a.m. today. The chamber will hold a final vote on H.R. 1500, the Consumers First Act, which would reverse changes made under the Trump administration to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

Supreme Court schedule

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

2020 schedules

--- Mayor Pete Buttigieg joins Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY) and the Queens County Democratic Party for a "fireside chat" in Long Island City, New York, followed by an on-stage interview with The Washington Post's Jonathan Capehart at 92Y in New York City.

--- Former Rep. John Delaney (D-MD) visits Iowa today. He holds meet and greets in Sioux City and Milford, and an immigration roundtable in Storm Lake.

--- Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) meets with Tamar Manasseh, the founder of Mothers Against Senseless Killings (MASK), and other community activists in Chicago as part of his gun violence listening tour.

--- Spiritual author Marianne Williamson holds a meet and greet and a house party in Keene, New Hampshire.


--- In Tuesday's newsletter, I mistakenly identified the party affiliation of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. He is a Republican of California. My apologies for the typo, and thanks to the readers who alerted me!

*All times Eastern